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The world is failing 130 million girls denied education: UN experts

23 January 2023

GENEVA (23 January 2023) – 130 million girls are denied the human right to education around the world, UN experts* said today, calling on States to step up efforts for the realisation of this fundamental human right. Ahead of the International Day of Education, the experts issued the following statement:

“The world is failing 130 million girls denied the human right to education – a fundamental, transformative, and empowering right for every human being.

Universal access to quality education enables individuals, communities, countries and the world to build wellbeing and prosperity for all. All States have made commitments to realise the right to education for all, but fewer than half of the world’s countries have achieved gender parity in primary education. Denying girls and other vulnerable groups their fundamental right to education is discrimination at its most debilitating. It impoverishes our world as it deprives us of the creativity, ingenuity and contributions of more than half of humanity.

Today, our thoughts are with the women and girls of Afghanistan in particular, as it is the only country in the world that prohibits education beyond primary level for women and girls. We condemn the discriminatory policies of the de facto authorities in Afghanistan who have barred women’s and girls’ access to secondary schools, universities, and other centres of learning, and repeat our call to the authorities to urgently end these illegal restrictions. They amount to abuse that not only harm women and girls, but are also seriously damaging the country and its future. We urge the international community to do everything in its power to have these policies reversed.

Education is a life-long learning process that actively contributes to building just, peaceful and sustainable societies.

On this International Day of Education, we call upon all States to take concrete steps to rectify gender and other disparities that prevent the enjoyment of this fundamental right for all.”


*The experts: Ms. Farida Shaheed took office as Special Rapporteur on the right to educationon 1 August 2022 following her appointment by the Human Rights Council. She is the Executive Director of Pakistan’s leading gender justice organization, Shirkat Gah - Women’s Resource Centre. She also served as a member of Pakistan’s National Commission on the Status of Women, and as the first Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights from 2009 to 2015.

Mr. Richard Bennett is the United NationsSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. He officially assumed duties on 1 May 2022. He has served in Afghanistan on several occasions in different capacities including as the Chief of the Human Rights Service with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Ms. Dorothy Estrada-Tanck (Chair), Ms. Elizabeth Broderick, Ms. Ivana Radačić (Vice-Chair), Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane and Ms. Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls. The UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls was created by the Human Rights Council in 2010 to intensify efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls throughout the world in collaboration with all concerned stakeholders. The Working Group is composed of the five aforementioned independent experts.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Mylène Bidault ([email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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