States and Panelists Tackle Equal Enjoyment of the Right to Education for Girls

On June 16, IIMA and VIDES attended the “Panel on Realizing the
Equal Enjoyment of the Right to Education by Every Girl” to end the second full
day of the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). The President of the
HRC, Joachim Rucker, introduced the panel, noting that still close to 62
million girls around the world are not in school, and many suffer attacks only
because they wish to attend.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the High Commissioner, then gave his
report, setting the scene for the panel by pointing out the barriers that girls
worldwide often face when trying to receive a good quality education. The panel
consisted of Marilena Viviani, the Associate Director of Programme Partnerships
for the Division of Programmes for UNICEF; Reem Al Hashemi, the Minister of the
State for the United Arab Emirates (UAE); Barbara Bailey, the Vice Chair on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Chair of the CEDAW
Working Group on the Right of Girls and Women to Education; Kishore Singh,
Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education; Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Ethiopia Goodwill
Ambassador; and Adama Coulibaly, the Regional Director for the West African
Region of Plan International.

Each panelist spoke of her or his own experiences with the right
to education. Ms Viviani spoke of the progress UNICEF is making to overcome the
gap, while Ms Hashemi spoke of the advances the UAE has made to equalize
education for boys and girls, through budget and policy. Ms Bailey stressed the
implications of denying access to education for girls, and Mr Singh urged all
States to ratify the CEDAW. Ms Godefa, the only youth on the panel, talked
about ways that governments can support girls as they strive to receive quality
education, and Mr Coulibaly shared many personal stories, one of which
highlighted the differences between his and his sister’s opportunities for
schooling during times of disaster.
While many States spoke out in support of equal enjoyment of
education for girls, IIMA and VIDES remain concerned that girls worldwide, but
especially in developing countries, still do not receive the support and access
they need to quality education, and are further set back in their economic
situation, ensuring that society cannot progress if women do not have access to
high quality education, that is on par with their male peers.