The State of the World's Children 2004 - Girls, education and development

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Every boy and girl around the world has a right to expect that we will do all we can to ensure that they will enjoy their right to an education. But in most countries, girls are the most disadvantaged when it comes to school. As this year’s State of the World’s Children reports, millions of young girls never attend school at all, millions more never complete their education, and countless numbers never receive the quality education that is their right. These millions of girls slip easily to the margins of our societies - less healthy than they could be, less skilled, with fewer choices in their lives and less hope for the future. As they grow into women, they are ill-prepared to participate fully in the political, social and economic development of their communities. They - and their children in turn - are at higher risk of poverty, HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation, violence and abuse. Conversely, to educate a girl is to educate a whole family. And what is true of families is also true of communities and, ultimately, whole countries. Study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition and promote health - including helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation. Two of the Millennium Development Goals - agreed by all the world’s countries as a blueprint for building a better world in the 21st century - are focused on education for girls and boys alike. These are not only goals in their own right; how we fare in reaching them will be crucial to our ability to reach all the others. Only by translating them into reality can our international family grow stronger, healthier, more equitable and more prosperous.

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