06.03.2009 -

International Women’s Day, March 8 - Women in Niger and Afghanistan speak out on education

© UNESCO Kabul/Baryalai Amiri

UNESCO celebrations for International Women’s Day focus on gender equality including equal access to quality education.

Gender disparity is still deeply entrenched in education. Two-thirds of the 776 million adults in the world who cannot read are women and girls account for more than half of the 75 million children who are out of school.

Despite progress, more than half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia and the Arab States have not achieved gender parity at the primary level.

But in two countries, Niger and Afghanistan, where female literacy rates are less than 20 per cent, women have spoken about how two projects are changing their lives for the better (See related links).

In Niger a project to encourage autonomy among women and girls in the Youri community was launched in 2006 when five European countries, Andorra, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Monaco and San Marino, signed an agreement with UNESCO to provide joint funding.

It focused on reinforcing the capacities of girls and women through increased enrolment in schooling, literacy training, empowerment of women through income-generating activities and sensitization to human rights.

The project led to the construction of classrooms, the schooling of around 100 children (in majority girls) and the installation of grain mills that reduced the hours women spent making flour, freeing them and their daughters to further their education.

In Afghanistan the first success stories are being recorded for a literacy project launched by UNESCO with the cooperation of the Afghan Ministry of Education and funding from the Government of Japan. The pilot literacy programme began in Bamyan province in November 2008 and over the next five years will provide educational assistance to 600,000 men and women in 18 provinces of Afghanistan.

In Paris UNESCO will celebrate International Women’s Day with a programme of events including round-tables, conferences, exhibitions and cultural events that highlight issues relating to the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality running from March 9 to 25. 

Related links

Fatema’s story- the Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan programme 

The Youri Women’s Group – A project to empower women and girls 

UNESCO International Women's Day website 

Women make the news 2009 

Message from the Director-General of UNESCO Mr Koïchiro Matsuura

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