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International​ ​Day​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Girl:​ ​"Innovation for​ ​girls'​ ​education"

UNFPA and UNICEF advocate for mother-to-child reintegration into schools and raise awareness about prevention of early pregnancy. M adagascar celebrated International Day of the Girl in Antsohihy, in the Sofia region. 

"Innovation for Girls 'Education", is this year's theme with a particular focus on innovative approaches to address the various obstacles to the fulfillment of girls' rights, particularly in terms of education. "It is a theme that answers one of the problems girls face in Madagascar: education with all the dangers and constraints that make many Malagasy girls can not go further in their studies," says Mr. Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF Representative in Madagascar. 

As in other countries of the world, more girls now have access to school in Madagascar. The gap between girls and boys in primary school enrollment has also narrowed considerably. Girls' and boys' parity in primary school is one of the few Millennium Development Goals that the country will achieve by 2015. But if enrollment rates increase, girls' completion rates are lagging behind. Out of ten girls entering secondary school, only three complete the full secondary cycle. 

UNICEF, in order to increase the low enrollment rate of girls in the secondary cycle, works with the regional directorates of national education and NGOs in three regions of the country, including Sofia, to ensure girls' access to the CEG through the granting of scholarships. This scholarship programme allows girls to make the transition from primary to secondary (transitional scholarships), to keep girls up to the final year of the school (retention bursaries) and above all to reintegrate girls in college (scholarships of reinsertion). UNICEF is supporting mother-to-child girls to resume their schooling to at least finish the college cycle by obtaining the BEPC. Indeed, these girls were often forced into forced marriage, followed by early pregnancy. If they want to go back to school, they are most often rejected by society, by their pairs. 

In terms of prevention to keep girls in school, upstream action is needed to prevent teenage pregnancies. In Madagascar, one girl out of three had already been pregnant before the age of 19. In the Sofia region, UNFPA and its partners, including the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Youth and Recreation, regularly carry out awareness-raising sessions on reproductive health, including prevention of early pregnancies, targeting schooled and unschooled young people school-leavers from the region. The 75 Young Peers Educators who have been trained and committed to prevention are essential elements in reaching young people. By the end of 2013, UNFPA will provide equipment to enable two youth-friendly health centres in Antsohihy and Mandritsara to function as well as free services to help adolescents and young people to obtain sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning. 

"Together, by combining advocacy and sensitization ? we can put an end to child marriages and early pregnancies, we can change the lives of girls in Madagascar. Investing in girls can accelerate the fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination. Indeed, girls' education is one of the factors that can positively influence not only the lives of girls themselves, but development, "said Philippe Grandet, the UNFPA Deputy Representative in Madagascar. On the occasion of International Day of the girl 2013, awareness-raising activities were carried out to prevent early pregnancy and to advocate for the education of girls targeting young people, the education community and parents. The Sofia region was chosen because it is one of the regions where the rate of early pregnancy is one of the highest compared to other regions of the island and where CEG Directors and local communities have adopted the reintegration of mother-to-daughters into the formal education system.