PARIS, 3rd March, 2016 (WAM) — Almost 16 million girls between the ages six and 11 will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about 8 million boys, if current trends continue, according to a new report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UIS.

In the run-up to International Women’s Day on 8th March, the UNESCO ‘eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education’ shows that girls are still the first to be denied the right to education despite all the efforts and progress made over the past 20 years.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 9.5 million girls will never set foot in a classroom compared to 5 million boys, according to UIS data. In total, more than 30 million children aged six to 11 are out of school across the region. Some will start at a later age, but many more will remain entirely excluded with girls facing the biggest barriers.

The gender gap is even wider in South and West Asia, where 80% of out-of-school girls will never enter formal education compared to 16% of out-of-school boys. This affects about 4 million girls compared to less than 1 million boys.

Girls form the majority of the millions of children excluded from school in Arab States, although precise estimates are impossible to produce due to conflicts in the region.

“We will never achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals without overcoming the discrimination and poverty that stunt the lives of girls and women from one generation to the next,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova. “We must work at all levels, from grassroots to global leaders, to put equity and inclusion at the heart of every policy so that all girls, whatever their circumstances, go to school, stay in school and become empowered citizens.”