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We cannot let the girls disappear

Chancellor Gordon Brown's commitment to increase the international development aid budget is very welcome, especially his promise for funding to meet the millennium development goal of primary education for every child in the world by 2015.

The first such goal, education for all by 2000, was missed. The next, for 2005, is on course to fail as well.

This is partly due to a lack of international assistance and partly to a lack of public knowledge and concern with the enormity of gender inequalities in education throughout the world. Even a newspaper like The TES gives scant space to this issue.

One-sixth of the world's population has no access to education, two-thirds of whom are women and girls. Unesco estimates that by 2005, 47 countries are unlikely to have gender parity in access to primary education, let alone completion, and 94 will not have parity in secondary education.

This is a grave matter which must be brought to the forefront of public concern. Otherwise there is a real danger that even with more resources for development assistance, gender will once again evaporate from the international target-setting cooking pot.

Dr Elaine Unterhalter Beyond Access: Gender education and development project Institute of Education University of London Bedford Way Bloomsbury, London WC1

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