Girl child in Arab world facing discrimination

DUBAI — The Second Arab Media and Child Rights Forum opened here yesterday with the participation of leading human rights experts and decision-makers from the Arab media organisations.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Wed 3 May 2006, 11:34 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:36 PM

The forum has the patronage of Princess Haya bint Al Hussain, the Ambassador of Goodwill for World Food Programme (WFP).

Representing select Arab organisations active in the field of human development, media and human rights, the organisers at this year's forum include the regional office of Unicef, Middle East and North Africa (Mena), the Arab Institute for Human Rights, Al Bayan newspaper and Dubai Press Club.

The first day of the forum discussed important issues related to the status of girls in the Arab world and particularly those related to the education of the girl child and the main obstacles in this context. The forum also focused on initiatives that aim to enable the Arab girl child get better educational opportunities.

The forum's opening session was addressed by Unicef Mena Goodwill Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil; Mohammed Al Mansoori, Executive Director, Dubai Press Club and Thomas McDermott, Unicef Menaro, Regional Director.

Mahmoud Kabil said that the right of education for girls is next only to their right to life. The girl child is still suffering violence and discrimination and the Arab society has to work hard to raise the status of girls in this region, he observed.

Kabil pointed out that there are more than 7.5 million children in the Arab world who are not educated and the majority amongst them are girls. He stressed the importance of providing equal educational opportunities.

Thomas McDermott said that there are major differences in Arab countries in relation to girls' education and wide differences within each country as well. He noted that there was a significant gap between the numbers of male and female students despite the fact the girl students excelled and are better than male students.

In his inaugural speech, Mohammed Al Mansoori, who represented the organising committee, stressed the importance of the forum's theme and the role of media organisations in creating awareness about the importance of offering educational opportunities to Arab girls.

The first session focused on 'Girls' Education in Today's Arab World in the Context of Global and Regional Initiatives'.

Dr Malak Zaalouk, Unicef Menaro Regional Education Officer, spoke about the education of children in the region and the efforts made to develop girls' education in the Arab countries, and the importance of the role of the media in this respect.

She noted that the Arab region has very low level of educated girls. In Djibouti, there are only 30 per cent of girls who are not educated. In Yemen the percentage is 41 per cent, in Sudan 45 per cent, Saudi Arabia 57 per cent and Oman 76 per cent.

She said that in 2005 the gap between boys and girls education in the primary school was 14 per cent and the secondary school 16 per cent. This is the biggest gap of its kind in the world, with the Arab world being the second last in the world in girls' education.

Tareq Shayya, WFP - Nutrition and Girls' Education, said that there are more than 840 million starving people in the world; 300 million are children and 100 million uneducated. He said that poverty and starvation are the main reasons for low education in the world in general and the Arab world in particular.

The objective of the Arab Media and Child Rights Forum is to maintain and further encourage Arab media's active participation in preserving children's rights and related humanitarian and human development issues.

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