Malala Yousafzai has penned a powerful open letter to leaders of Commonwealth countries, calling on them to step up to act for girls’ education as the Commonwealth Summit approaches. 

Leaders from all 53 Commonwealth countries will be gathering in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting — a.k.a. the Commonwealth Summit — to address some of the world’s most pressing issues. 

And Malala wants to make sure that girls’ education is on the agenda. 

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“We have indisputable evidence that girls’ education grows economies, improves public health, reduces conflict, and mitigates climate change,” she wrote

“In my travels to many of your countries, I have met girls struggling to go to school,” she wrote. “Each girl knows that education is her only path to a better future.” 

“Together we are fighting for what has been promised,” she added, “but not delivered for far too long: 12 years of safe, free, quality education for every girl.” 

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Malala goes on to describe the many advantages that would come of ensuring that every girl around the world can access a quality education. 

If all girls went to school for 12 years, she said, low- and middle-income countries could add $92 billion to their economies every year.

Meanwhile, she added, girls who have been educated are less likely to marry young, or contract HIV — and they’re more likely to have healthy, educated children. What’s more, when a country gives all its children secondary education, they cut their risk of war in half. 

Girls’ education is also one of the most cost-effective strategies to tackle climate change, and it reduces a. country’s vulnerability to natural disasters. 

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Today, 130 million girls are out of school. Two-thirds of these girls live in countries that are Commonwealth member states — with girls in India, Pakistan, and Nigeria (all Commonwealth countries) the most likely to be denied an education. 

In other Commonwealth countries, child marriage and sexual violence are stop girls getting an education. 

Meanwhile, humanitarian emergencies across the world — from Syria to Nigeria, South Sudan, Afghanistan and beyond — are currently disrupting the schooling of 75 million children. 

For girls, this situation can be particularly bleak. Without the protection of a classroom, a girl is much more vulnerable to child marriage or trafficking, to be sold, raped, or abused by older men. 

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The Commonwealth leaders will gather in London in April, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting — and Global Citizen will be marking the occasion with a night of entertainment-fuelled activism at O2 Academy Brixton. 

In the run-up to the Summit, Malala called on leaders of the Commonwealth countries to make these commitments: 

  • Commit to 12 years of quality education for all girls and boys by 2030, consistent with Sustainable Development Goal 4
  • Pledge to spend a minimum of 20% of your national budget on education by 2020
  • Phase out tuition fees for all 12 years of school, targeting the poorest girls first. 

“I ask you to join us,” she finished. “Invest in the peace and prosperity of your country by investing in girls.” 

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As well as Malala, the letter was signed by girls’ education champions, between the ages of 15 and 20, from India, Canada, Nigeria, Australia, and Pakistan. 

Global Citizen campaigns to support the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on gender equality, and education. You can join us by taking action on these issues here. By taking action with us, you can also earn free tickets to see Emeli Sandé, Professor Green, Naughty Boy, Gabrielle Aplin, and more, live at Global Citizen Live on April 17 at O2 Academy Brixton. Click here to find out more


Demand Equity

Malala Just Sent a Powerful Open Letter to Commonwealth Leaders Calling for Girls’ Education

By Imogen Calderwood