United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said Monday that improving girls' education is fundamental to the achievement and sustainability of poverty reduction and the 2000 UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Noting that all eight MDGs impact children, she stressed the particular importance of girls' education "because of its positive effects on the development of the individual and the well being of societies".
She made the remarks at the Aug. 29 to Sep. 1 Beijing + 10 meeting commemorating the tenth anniversary of the World Conference on Women.
She said educating girls provides both short- and long-term benefits, "including reduced child mortality, increased productivity and income, better-educated children and gains for women's and girls' social status and empowerment".
According to UNICEF statistics, 115 million children, the majority of whom are girls, are still out of school in the world.
Veneman also noted how gender disparities contributed to a greater risk of women contracting HIV, with the situation further exacerbated by sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women and children.
"Gender-based violence in any of its forms denies girls and women their basic rights and dignity, and harms the development of entire countries", she said.
"Ending violence against women therefore must be a priority for sustainable development and for the realization of the fullest potential of both children and women."
She said providing a better future for women and children requires a renewed commitment to the principles of the Beijing Declaration passed at the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the MDGs by "supportive governments, economic empowerment and a focus on poverty, health, education and partnerships".
(Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2005)