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UN says 90m girls not getting education
Updated: 2005-11-26 09:37

Some 90 million girls are being excluded from primary schools around the world because of outdated stereotypes defining a female's place as in the home and social pressures for early marriage, the United Nations said Friday.

The U.N. Children's Fund said 46 countries were failing to get as many girls as boys into school, and that the global body's long-term goal of universal education for children was far from a sure thing.

In even more countries, the overall enrollment of children was "unacceptably low," and 25 million boys globally were not receiving a primary school education, according to UNICEF's 100-page study on gender and education.

"Education of children, especially girls, is the cornerstone to national progress," UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said in a statement. "It leads to greater economic productivity, reduced infant and maternal mortality and a greater likelihood that the next generation of children will go to school."

While rates of school attendance were rising throughout the world, a number of obstacles including poverty, HIV/ AIDS, armed conflict and natural catastrophes continued to thwart efforts to get all girls into the classroom, the study said.

Perhaps most subtly, it said gender roles often combined with poverty to "shackle" girls by making them conform with outdated notions of what activities a female should be allowed to undertake.

"Male privilege and entitlement (ensure) that when educational opportunities are limited, boys will take available classroom space," the study said.

It also highlighted early marriage — sometimes for children as young as 10 — as common in many cultures and often decisive in forcing girls to forgo an education. Teen pregnancy was another factor listed.

Still more girls were prevented from going to school by their own parents because it was simply unsafe in many places.

"Too often, schools themselves hurt the cause of girls' education," the report said. "Many girls are victims of sexual harassment and violence inside and outside of school. When parents are afraid that their daughters will not be safe going back and forth to school or in the school environment itself, they keep them home."

UNICEF said it was working with some "25 key countries" — such as Afghanistan, Congo, India, Pakistan and Turkey — facing the greatest challenge in getting girls to school.

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