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Duty bearers and rights holders

When a person has a right, someone else (primarily the state, but also the International community, see ICESCR Art.2, and CRC Art.4) has a duty to respect, protect and fulfil these rights. Understanding the actors and the relationship between rights holders and duty bearers is one of the most important issues in human rights.



As parties to human rights treaties, states have assumed the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right to education. In education this may translate into the 4A –scheme, which refers to the availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of the right to education. Provision of the right to education should not discriminate; the right to education is the right of each person regardless of gender, physical or mental ability, or legal status. However, such obligations and guarantees are often not translated into concrete legislation, polices and action on the ground. (For more information see 4A international framework)

International Community

The Convention on the Rights of the Child includes the provision of international cooperation (Article 4 and with particular reference to education Article 28(3)). However, despite the growing awareness of the need for gender equality in education, the international community has fallen short of their responsibility. One reason for this is the common misconception of education as a service rather than a right. (For more information please read UNICEF's report Summary of the CRC “What Rights?”).


Article 26 of the UDHR stresses the parents’ right to choose the kind of education provided to their child. The CRC (Articles 3 and 29(1)(c)), goes beyond this, stressing the importance of the best interests of the child. Although the rights and duties of parents or legal guardians are respected, it is now understood that the best interests of the child are paramount.


Women and girls are the rights holders. Education is a basic human right and therefore it is the obligation of states to provide a school environment which ensures equal access to girls and boys. States must not only guarantee that women and girls are safe in schools, but also establish facilities, curricula and strategies that adapt to their specific needs and rights, and will thus keep them in school.

For more information you can read:

Tomasevski: Human Rights and Poverty Reduction Girls’ education through a human rights lens: What can be done differently, what can be made better?

Duncan Wilson: Human Rights: Promoting gender equality in and through education

Action Aid. Violence Against Girls in Schools