For many girls and young women around the world, going to school is an unfulfilled desire. It is important that we understand the importance of girls’ education. We should also understand demands of gender equality and how it can make our country and the world a better place.Education is the key to all success. At the recent Oslo Summit on Education and Development, Pakistan has been described as being among the world’s worst-performing countries in terms of providing education. There are 22.5 million out-of-school children in the country.Girls are worse off than boys. 32 per cent of primary school-age girls are not attending school in Pakistan, compared to 21 per cent of boys. By grade six, 59 per cent of girls are out of school, versus 49 per cent of boys. Only 13 per cent of girls are still at schools by ninth grade. Both boys and girls are missing out on education in unacceptable numbers, but girls are worse affected. There are 54,372 schools for girls and 95,476 schools for boys in Pakistan. Out of the 54,372 schools, 40,538 are primary, 7,927 are middle, 5,175 are high and 722 higher secondary schools. For boys there are 78,601 primary, 8,501 middle, 7,401 high and 976 higher secondary institutions. There are not enough schools in Pakistan to accommodate the out of school children. Among the factors keeping girls out of school in Pakistan are the government’s under-investment in schools, lack of schools, prohibitive school fees and related costs, corporal punishment and a failure to enforce compulsory education.Sadly, the government of Pakistan has consistently invested too little in education and far less than international standardsMoreover, poor quality of government schools and low-cost private schools, a lack of regulation of private schools and corruption are also contributing factors. In addition to these factors within the education system, girls are also prevented from attending school by external factors including child labour, gender discrimination, child marriage, sexual harassment, insecurity, and attacks on education. These factors stop many girls from enrolling for high education. Sadly, the government of Pakistan has consistently invested too little in education, far less than the international standards. As of 2017, Pakistan was spending less than 2.8 per cent of its gross domestic product on education – far below the recommended 4 to 6 per cent. The public education system is thus severely under-funded. Government schools are in such short supply that even in some big cities in south Punjab, many children cannot reach a school on foot, safely and in a reasonable amount of time. The situation is far worse in rural areas. And there are many more schools for boys than for girls.In south Punjab, organisations like Umang and Awaz are advocating girls’ right to quality secondary education. Ujala Network Director and National Commission on the Status of Women member Ziaur Rehman says, “We hope that our findings and interventions will help the government diagnose the problems and identify solutions that will give every Pakistani girl a bright future.” The lack of access to education for girls is part of a broader landscape of gender inequality in Pakistan. Violence against women and girls including rape, so-called honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, forced marriage and child marriage are serious problems to which government responses are inadequate. Activists estimate that there are about 1,000 honour killings every year. 21 per cent of the girls get married as children. This needs to be stopped. The government needs to take serious and concrete actions in this regard.The governments should increase their spending on education to provide enough schools and teachers to enroll the 22.5 million out of school children. The disparity in provision of infrastructure for boys and girls also needs to be done away with. The writer is a Lahore-based activist.