ISLAMABAD: As the International Day of the Girl Child will be observed on Sunday, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pledged equal opportunities for girls and women.

Moreover, a report released by Unesco said despite an increase across all levels of education, girls are still more likely to suffer exclusion than boys, and this is further exacerbated by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Bilawal said nations investing in the future of their girl child were not only earning pride for their generations but strengthening the foundation of peaceful, coherent and progressive societies besides inspiring the less fortunate counterparts in the world.

In his message, the PPP chairman said girls in Pakistan have the role models like Fatima Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto who led the nation to fight military dictators of their times.

“Every Pakistani girl has the potential to become Fatima Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto if they are provided the required environment, education and facilities,” he added.

He said Pakistan’s recent history records how an unarmed girl, Malala Yousufzai, challenged the obstacles and threats by forces of dark ages and succeeded in attaining higher education to pursue her dreams.

He stressed the need to focus attention on addressing the challenges girls face to promote their empowerment and protection of their human rights besides providing them equal opportunities in every field of life.

He pledged that his party would support provision of equal approach to access education, healthcare and promotion facilities for the girls.

Meanwhile, the ‘Global education monitoring report, a new generation: 25 years of efforts for gender equality in education’, released on Saturday said: “At this critical moment with Covid-19 exacerbating gender inequalities, we must renew our commitment to educating girls and women. Progress in this field echoes through generations – as do reversals of this progress.”

It shows that 180 million more girls have enrolled in primary and secondary education since 1995 when UN member states adopted ‘Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’ at the first world conference on women. Since then, the global enrolment rate for girls increased from 73 per cent to 89 per cent, with the biggest improvement seen in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

According to the report, large gender disparities persist particularly for disadvantaged learners, and in at least 20 countries, including Pakistan, hardly any poor rural young women have completed upper secondary school.

In four countries, including Pakistan, gender disparity existed among the richest 20 per cent of households and those living in urban areas, but high levels of gender disparity were apparent among the poorest 20 per cent and those living in rural areas. In Pakistan, only 70 of the poorest girls attended primary school in 2018 for every 100 of the poorest boys.

Education opportunities for women have expanded even more strikingly at tertiary education level. Globally, women’s enrollment in tertiary education tripled, from 38 million to 116 million, between 1995 and 2018, accounting for 54pc of the total increase in enrollment.

Women are over-represented in education, health, arts, humanities and social sciences, and under-represented in some science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields of study.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2020