The UK is leading an effort to prioritize girls’ education in low- and middle-income countries.
Members of the G7 — the world’s most developed economies — are slated to sign an agreement to help send 40 million more girls to school within five years at a G7 foreign and development ministers’ summit in London on Wednesday, according to the BBC.
The meeting is the first in-person summit in two years among G7 members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, as well as representatives from the European Union. Foreign ministers from South Korea, Australia, India, and South Africa will also attend some of the talks, according to the Guardian.
Through the push to collectively agree to a commitment of a $15 billion (£10.8 billion) two-year support package, G7 countries will also aim to ensure 20 million more girls can read by the age of 10.
The new goals will help young women achieve 12 years of education, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said of the investment, according to the BBC. The goals will boost "the fortunes not just of individuals, but whole communities and nations," he added.
The girls’ education pledge will also be signed by the EU and centers "gender equality at the heart of global cooperation to build back better" from the COVID-19 pandemic, the British government said.
Educating girls and empowering women is essential.— Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (@FCDOGovUK) May 3, 2021
This week #G7 foreign ministers will agree:
✅ new targets to ensure all girls everywhere get a quality education
✅ new funding to boost employment and economic opportunities for women in developing countries #G7UK
Women and girls have been hit the hardest by the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. World leaders are calling for a gender-responsive plan to prioritize the recovery of women and girls.
The G7 funding will renew support for women-led business and products or services that benefit and empower women. Through the pledge, G7 governments are also recommitting to promote sexual and reproductive health while increasing gender-based violence prevention and elimination.
Charities support the G7’s new targets but pointed out that it is in contradiction with the UK’s foreign aid spending.
The G7 target announcement comes after the UK, which currently holds the G7 presidency, recently received backlash for cutting aid for UN family planning efforts. The Foriegn and Commonwealth Development Office pledged £154 million to the United Nations Population Found but said it would only receive £23 million. What’s more, average UK aid spending on girls’ education dropped from £672 million since 2016 to £400 million in 2021.
Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s population lacking literacy skills, and it is estimated that nearly 743 million girls are currently out of school because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocates warn that without urgent action. a large portion of girls will not return to school, be subjected to early pregnancy and harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, and will further perpetuate cycles of poverty while diminishing the health and well-being of their families and communities.