achieved by 2005. If this timeline is allowed to slip, itwill become impossible to achieve universal primaryeducation by 2015. And, as UNDP has warned, if wefail to achieve UPE by 2015, the already uncertainprospects of attaining the other MDGs will dwindlebeyond the vanishing point (Vandemoortele 2002;See Figure 1 on next page).In order to achieve the goal of universal completion of primary education by 2015, it is necessary for alleligible children, both girls and boys, to start primaryschool on time by 2009/10, and to complete theprimary cycle five or six years later. A generalisedexpansion of primary education is necessary but notsufficient to meet these targets, since girls facegender-specific discrimination and disadvantage atevery step along the way. Action must be taken now toremove these barriers.However, no country is so far behind on girls’enrolment that it could not at least eliminate gendergaps in rural and urban school intake by 2005. Thiswould enable all countries to reach parity betweengirls and boys throughout the primary cycle by 2011,and to stay on track for universal primary education(UPE) by 2015. The UPE goal also requires that theschool completion rate is 100 per cent for all childrenby 2015, so concerted efforts must be made, startingnow, to eliminate the gender gaps in rural and urbancompletion rates (and thus dropout rates) across allgrades. Eliminating differences in learningachievements between girls and boys is also essential,and all countries should set clear targets for this.In order to meet the MDG education goals, richcountries would need to provide $5.6 bn per year.This may sound like a lot of money, but it’s less thanthree days of global military spending, and about thesame as what American parents spend on Barbie dollsfor their daughters every year. Aid needs to bespecifically targeted at countries where genderinequalities are greatest and where enrolments areparticularly low.With some 88 countries off track, the loomingprospect of failure has caused some commentators todismiss the 2005 gender equality target as unrealisticand over-ambitious. But the striking successesachieved by some of the world’s poorest countriesprove otherwise. As this report will document, manycountries, including most of those in our study, havemade dramatic progress in reducing gender
Box 1: Education Can Save Your Life
Education saves lives by giving women the confidence and power to make better choices for themselves and their children.
In much of South Asia, women typically eat last and eat least. During pregnancy, this has disastrous consequences: highmaternal and infant mortality, and low birth weight, which can cause serious health complications throughout the rest of the life cycle. Bangladeshi women with at least a fifth grade education are more likely to increase their food intake when theyare pregnant – not just because they know they should, but because they are better able to influence household decisions.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS infection rates have been falling dramatically among women with at least a secondaryeducation – not just because they have better knowledge of how to prevent transmission, but because they have the statusand confidence to assert their rights. In 17 countries in Africa and four in Latin America, better-educated girls tended todelay having sex, and were more likely to require their partners to use condoms. Since young women in Africa are up to fivetimes more vulnerable to HIV infection than young men, denying them access to education may literally cost them their lives.Sources: Jejeebhoy, S. J. 1995.
Women’s Education, Autonomy, and Reproductive Behaviour: Experiences from DevelopingCountries.
Oxford: Clarendon Press. Karim, R.
. 2002, ‘Determinants of Food Consumption During Pregnancy in RuralBangladesh: Examination of Evaluative Data from the Bangladesh Integrated Nutrition Project.’ Tufts University, Food Policyand Applied Nutrition Programme, Discussion Paper no. 11, July 29. World Bank 2002,
Education and HIV-AIDS: A window of hope.
Report on the Global HIV-AIDS Epidemic
. New York: UNAIDS.