September 6, 2013 was marked as a special day for children and girls particularly who do not have access to school. Every year the International Children´s Peace Prize is awarded by the NGO Kidsrights, to a child, whose courageous or otherwise remarkable actions have made a difference in improving the situation of children. This year the award was presented to Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old girl from Pakistan. Many people may have heard about Malala’s courageous story. Despite being personally attacked by the Taliban, she continued her pledge for education. She broke through the fear of violence with powerful effect: through her advocacy and determination, she puts the issue of girls’ education in Pakistan, and girls’ education globally on the international and national agendas again. Therefore, the International Children´s Peace Prize was also an occasion to emphasize the importance of girls’ education by presenting the report ACCESS DENIED! Girls’ equal right to education in a global context, with a focus on Pakistan, undertaken by the Child Law Department of Leiden University (under the supervision of UNICEF Professor of Children’s Rights Ton Liefaard and Professor of Children and the Law Marielle Bruning) in partnership with KidsRights.
Worldwide 57 million children out of school, 32 million are girls
In Malala´s acceptance speech, she accepts the prize on behalf of all children who have limited access to education. She notices that for children from countries such as the Netherlands, school is something which is easily taken for granted. Malala dreams of a world
“where education is taken for granted in every corner of the globe, because no-one is excluded from it.”
Unfortunately, this world is still a dream. In many countries, including Pakistan, children do not have the privilege of taking education for granted because they do not even have access to education. Worldwide, there are still 57 million children without access to primary education, of whom 32 million children are girls.
The report ACCESS DENIED! Girls’ equal right to education in a global context, with a focus on Pakistan: main findings
The report ACCESS DENIED provides a thorough analysis of why girls have limited access to education. Despite a firm legal framework, the implementation of the right to education remains problematic, especially for girls. Three main causes are indicated, including gender inequality in cultural practices, poverty and safety risks for girls. For instance, due to poverty parents are often forced to subject their girls to child labour. This happened for example to Pramila from Nepal, who escaped from slavery before the age of 15 years old.
“Because of poverty, I have had many problems in keeping up my education,” says Pramila, “My family couldn’t afford the things you need for school, so my father decided to send me to work as a kamalari (child servant).”
The report aims to give a better understanding of the challenges girls such as Malala and Pramila face, in their struggle to get access to education. The situation in Pakistan serves as an example showing the complex problems surrounding the implementation of the right to education for girls. With 5.1 million children, the country has the second highest number of boys and girls who are not able to access education, after Nigeria with 10.5 million children out of school. In rural areas, widespread gender inequality remains, and the hurdles described above all apply. Furthermore, the conflict between the Pakistani Government and the Taliban often brings girls, teachers and school buildings in the direct line of fire.
The report concludes by highlighting what still needs to be done to improve the situation of access to education for girls globally and in Pakistan. By meeting these challenges worldwide, a true change can be achieved, enabling all girls to take school for granted because no-one is excluded.