Malala Yousafzai honoured at UNESCO seminar in Pakistan
"I would like to dedicate this ceremony to Ms. Malala Yousafzai, a brave young activist for girls' right to education in Pakistan, assaulted last week because she wanted to go to school." Quoting the UNESCO Director-General, UNESCO Pakistan Director Dr. Kozue Kay Nagata thus opened a special seminar in Islamabad on 23rd October 2012. The seminar was held to launch the EFA Global Monitoring Report but also to reaffirm UNESCO's commitment to girls' right to education in Pakistan.
Girls' right to education has captured public attention following the attack on the 15-year-old student activist by Taliban gunmen on 9 October on a school bus.
Senator Ms. Farah Aqil from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was Chief Guest at the seminar. She condemned the attack against Malala Yousufzai for which she expressed a deep sense of grief. "The conflict has made it arduous for girls to pursue their education," she stated. The Senator suggested increasing the education budget as well as strengthening security and transport for female students in conflict-affected areas.
The findings of UNESCO's recently-published Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2012 were presented. Dr. Nagata remarked that "for Pakistan as a nation, this year's GMR has a special value". Mr. Timo Pakkala, UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, affirmed that girls' education is a must in order to meet development targets in Pakistan.
Pakistan has the second largest number of children out of school – 5.1 million. Two-thirds of Pakistan’s 5.1 million children are girls, who face a severe disadvantage in education. Although there has been progress in reducing gender disparity, girls still face major obstacles gaining access to school. The primary net enrolment ratio for girls is still 14 percentage points behind the ratio for boys, leaving only eight girls to every ten boys in primary school. In the Swat District, only around one in three girls are in school.
Organized by UNESCO under the aegis of United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI), the seminar included representatives of UNICEF, the International Labour Organization and other UN agencies. All stressed the need for coordinated actions and responsibility among all stakeholders to meet the 2015 targets set for girls' education in Pakistan.
Civil society was well represented at the seminar, with NGOs, teachers and students, and the event was widely covered by the media.