An estimated 39 million girls in countries affected by armed conflicts, forced displacement or natural disasters lack access to quality education, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) said Wednesday.

These girls “represent a new generation prevented from acquiring the skills they need to withstand the shocks of crisis, to rebuild their lives and to contribute to the reconstruction of their society,” Yasmine Sherif, director of ECW, a global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises, said in a press release. “They also represent a significant segment of humanity deprived of their inherent human right to learn, grow and achieve their potential,” she noted.

“Girls are the ones furthest left behind. We find them in South Sudan, where 72 percent of primary school-aged girls (vs. 64 percent of boys) do not attend primary school; in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where only 38 percent of primary school students are girls; in Niger, where only 15 percent of 15- to 24-year-old girls and young women are literate (vs. 35 percent of young men); and in Afghanistan, where 70 percent of the 3.5 million out-of-school children are girls, to mention just a few staggering, illustrative examples in the 21st century,” said Sherif.

As a global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Sherif said that the ECW has leveraged funding to advance girls’ education in the humanitarian-development nexus. The ECW’s recently published Gender Policy and Accountability Framework sets out its approach to translating its commitment to girls’ education in conflict- and crisis-affected countries into action. The ECW has also taken affirmative action to ensure that 60 percent of all students benefiting from ECW investment are girls, while gender-sensitivity is integrated across all ECW-funded joint programs. “Conflicts and disasters are about destruction.

Discrimination and marginalization are about disempowerment,” said the ECW director. “Combine the two and we get a glimpse of the brutal reality affecting millions of girls today. Standing amidst the ruins of their towns, displaced communities and torn-apart families, they are further shackled by exclusion, exploitation and lost opportunities because of their gender,” she said. The ECW, hosted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings.

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