Speech of the Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Ján Kubiš, at the Launch of the 16 Days against Gender-Based Violence Campaign

Saad Abdulla Convention Centre, 26 November 2015, Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq [Delivered by Mr. Ramanathan Balakrishnan, UNFPA Representative in Iraq]

Your Excellency, Prime Minister of Kurdistan,
Your Excellences, Council of Ministers, Kurdistan Regional Government
Your Excellency, Governor of Erbil,
Honourable Members of Parliament and Heads of Blocs,
Honourable Members of the Board of Human Rights, Kurdistan
Honourable Members of the High Council of Women’s Affairs
Honourable Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Civil Society Representatives,
Distinguished Guests,
Colleagues in the United Nations family,

On behalf of SRSG Ján Kubiš, I thank you for extending an invitation to the UN family in Iraq to participate in this year’s launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign under the global theme, ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education for All’.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Kurdistan Regional Government for its continued efforts to assist the millions of IDPs and refugees hosted in its’ area amidst challenging and difficult conditions. The needs of these populations far outstretch available resources. As the crisis continues to deepen, humanitarian needs among the affected populations are escalating, in particular, for women and girls. Gender-based violence is one of the most significant features of this crisis and has had a major impact on women and girls and their ability and willingness to access education. Girls are particularly vulnerable to multiple forms of violence and the majority are out-of-school, experience growing levels of sexual violence, harassment, early marriage, exploitation and abuse, and are restricted by their families from moving freely.

The focus of this year’s campaign, ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education for All’, highlights the relationship between lasting peace and the right to education in situations of violent conflict. We all agree that schools should remain zones of peace and yet attacks on education occur around the world, both inside and outside of situations of armed conflict. In many regions, and including in Iraq, armed groups intentionally target schools, teachers, and students. These attacks violate the rights of the child, can cause children to drop out or go to school less often, prevent families to send their children, particularly girls, to schools, force schools to cut their hours and other schools to implement double or triple shifts, and put children at risk of injury or death.

One of the key challenges for the humanitarian response includes ensuring access to education for thousands of girls and boys displaced by the conflict from within Iraq and Syria; the right to education is one of the most fundamental elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ladies and gentlemen, women and girls in general, and in particular those most vulnerable such as refugees, IDPs, or those with lower economic status, are often denied the right to education and suffer severe consequences as a result. Country-wide enrolment figures for girls at the primary level remain relatively high. However, a significant drop-out rate is evident as girls get older. Levels of educational attainment is drastically lower among IDPs.

The barriers to education for displaced children are numerous and for girls these are magnified. According to the recent data by the Education cluster in Iraq, at the end of the academic year in July 2015, only 32 per cent of displaced children had access to any form of education. This left over 600,000 displaced children missing an entire year of schooling. In camps, only 50 per cent of children have access to education. Out of camps, only 30 per cent (852,434 school-age children) have access to education. Furthermore, the major risk factors preventing girls 11-18 years from enrolling and continuing their education is child marriage. Limited opportunities for education remain a major obstacle to girls’ protection, well-being and development. In some cases, families are afraid to send their girls to school for security concerns, and girls continue to be at risk of GBV and early marriage as a coping strategy.

Lack of equitable access to education negatively impacts Iraqi society at large. As the crisis continues, access to education is critical for people to live in Iraq with dignity and to provide the next generation of Iraqi children opportunities for hope and self-sufficiency. Equitable access to education is particularly important to redress gender inequalities and promote girls’ opportunities and empowerment. Out-of-school boys and girls are more likely to marry early, to engage in child labour, and to be recruited into armed groups for combat or support functions. Early marriage rates among girls decline remarkably as a mother’s educational level rises as does family health and economic status. Inadequate education opportunities is also a key trigger of social tensions between host and displaced communities and is reported as one of the drivers for the families migrating to Europe. Additionally it increases the risk of political and social manipulation and aggravates social inequalities.

Learnings from successful interventions indicate that education is a powerful way to prevent child marriage, especially keeping girls in school through secondary grades. I therefore acknowledge publicly commitments of the Kurdistan Regional Government to protect the right to education, for example through its various efforts to ensure displaced women and girls are free from violence and to ensure access to services, including education. This includes, notably the “Call for Action Declaration framework” and its accompanying sectoral Plans under the Leadership of High Council for Women Affairs.

On behalf of the UN family in Iraq, I urge you all to join in advancing the right to education for girls and continuing to address Gender-Based Violence. I also wish to reiterate that the UN stands ready to continuing support the full realisation of the right to education for all and violence-free Kurdistan Region.

Thank you.


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  • Agency: UNAMI
Last modified on Monday, 01 May 2017 13:52

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