International Day of the Girl celebrations in Brussels see focus on social norms

A young delegate takes part in the European Week of Action for Girls in Brussels. Photo by: Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung

BRUSSELS — Girls who receive a quality education are more likely to lead healthy lives, yet on International Day of the Girl on October 11, more than 130 million girls worldwide aren’t in school.

In Brussels, policymakers and activists are meeting throughout the week to discuss some of the biggest barriers to girls’ well-being, such as teen pregnancy, sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage, and school dropout rates.

A report from ONE released Wednesday set out the stark gender gaps in education worldwide. It found that just two of the 10 countries where it is hardest for girls to get an education — which include South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Niger — are meeting the target set by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) of spending 20 percent of the national budget on education. Meanwhile, education’s share of official development assistance has dropped from 13 percent to 10 percent since 2002.

Irena Andrassy, deputy chief of staff for the European Union’s Development Commissioner Neven Mimica, told participants at the Girls’ Summit in the Belgian capital on Wednesday that the EU would “top up” funding for the GPE next year, without giving specifics. Andrassy also pledged additional funding to Education Cannot Wait, a fund designed to provide education in emergency situations.

But the ONE report noted that funding is not the only obstacle to girls’ education: for example, Burundi has the world’s lowest GDP per capita at $286, but outperforms 18 other countries with higher GDPs when it comes to girls’ education, according to the NGO’s index.

For many participants at events in Brussels this week, the focus is on the social barriers that can hold girls back.

As an official from the EU’s development department, DEVCO, told a

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