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Educating girls have become one of the major development and public health focus across the globe. A new documentary called To Educate a Girl explores what it takes to educate girls in Nepal and Uganda.

Although the stories are within the global context, it is powerful enough to warrant discussions across the region. Why? Because even in countries reporting very high literacy rates, disparities do exist from country to country and even within particular countries. Additionally, higher education attainment does not translate to increased empowerment for young women.

A Joint UNAIDS/UNFPA/UNIFEM report found that although girls outperform boys throughout our education system, including at the university level, the rate of new HIV infection among girls 15 to 19 is five times higher among girls than boys in this age group. According to Sir George Alleyne, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, this ‘remarkable paradox’ between higher education levels and higher rates of HIV prevalence is tied to young women’s inability to advocate for themselves despite their years of education.

“Possibly, the skills and knowledge women acquire in the formal education system are not sufficient to enable them to take control over other parts of their lives…it may come too late to prevent them from being the victim of unwanted or transactional sex as adolescents,” he says.

Among the multiple benefits of educating girls, UNESCO lists: increased family incomes, reduced fertility rates, and greater opportunities and life choices for women (including better chances to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS). The increasing HIV (and STI) rates suggests we need greater emphasis on what and how we educate young women, and not be satisfied to say that we are getting people through school.

For the full video, visit viewchange.org at http://www.viewchange.org/videos/to-educate-a-girl

Sources:
http://www.unfpa.org/hiv/women/report/chapter5.html
http://www.unesco.org/education/wef/en-press/press-kit_wome.shtm
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/jamaica_29872.html

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