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Global Citizen CEO, Hugh Evans, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, Julia Gillard and Clara Lionel Foundation founder, Rihanna, speak to young mothers who dropped out of school in Muzu Village, Malawi about the value of education. Photo Credit: Evan Rogers
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Why Rihanna’s Fight for Girls’ Education Is Actually Part of Something Way Bigger

There’s a movement of hundreds of thousands of amazing human beings out there, including the wonderful Rihanna, that’s led to governments all over the world committing billions of dollars to fund one of the planet’s most urgent issues.

Let’s talk about girls’ education.

Take Action: Call on the Dutch PM to Step Up and Pledge to Give Children a Quality Education

Right now there are 264 million children not in school around the world, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). And education is disproportionately barred to girls and women — at least 1 in 5 of all girls and women in the world are denied access.

It’s a colossal number — and requires an immense collective response.

That’s why the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) exists. It’s an international collaboration among donor and developing countries, international organizations, civil society, teacher organizations, the private sector, and foundations, working on the front lines to get education to the hardest-to-reach places. It helps educate the most vulnerable children in the world’s poorest countries.

Between 2002 and 2015, GPE put 70 million kids into school, training hundreds of thousands of teachers. Think Avengers, minus the spandex — with superhuman powers to teach.

And Rihanna is an incredible part of the GPE squad. On Monday night, the R&B superstar flexed her following to tweet the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, to ask him to pledge €100 million to GPE over the next three years.

It’s not her first foray into the social media timelines of world leaders — RiRi has been a GPE ambassador since 2016. Back in February, she tweeted heads of state in the UK, France, and Australia; in January she tweeted Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg; and in 2017 she went after Canada, Argentina, and Germany. She even visited Malawi with Global Citizen and GPE to see the good work for herself.

Now, the world is watching — and it’s been a long road to get here.

Since April 2017, Global Citizens have taken more than 263,682 actions calling on world leaders to help every child get a quality education — regardless of their gender, ability, or the “ovarian lottery.”

The pitter-patter of tweets, emails, and petition signatures have snowballed into an unstoppable force of nature: a global movement that has forced governments everywhere to bend their ears to listen.

Global Citizens have previously urged Norway, France, Italy, the United States, and more to take action in support of education. All this sustained public momentum culminated in a pledging conference in Senegal in February this year, co-hosted by France, that led to donor countries committing over $2.3 billion to fund education for the world’s poorest.

Read More: Global Citizens Just Helped Secure $2.3BN For Education

It’s a result that shows how serious countries everywhere treat girls’ education. They’re putting millions into GPE because — even in a time of political uncertainty — they trust the organization to deliver real change to the lives of children.

Yet it’s not enough — GPE needs $3.1 billion to reach 870 million children in 89 developing countries.

That’s where the Netherlands comes in. But why now?

Well, the Netherlands has promised to help. Rewind back to the pledging conference, and the Dutch government vowed that an ambitious financial commitment would come, but couldn’t be made so soon after a recent election.

And now’s the perfect opportunity. The government just launched a new development policy in May, and is in the position to step up and commit €100 million over three years to the GPE.

Read More: 10 Barriers to Education Around the World

These funds could help cover the cost of schooling for the world’s poorest girls, give them quality education — including about their bodies and periods — and provide gender-separated toilets so they can stay in school without fear.

So, the movement wants to know: Will the Netherlands rise to the challenge and stay true to its pledge?

It looks promising. It took less than 12 hours for Sigrid Kaag — the Dutch minister for foreign trade and international development — to tweet back at Rihanna.

“This is music to our ears,” Kaag tweeted. “The Netherlands is firmly back in education! All will be revealed in NY next month. Hope to see you there!”

It’s a big deal: If you give a girl an education, it can seriously change the world.

Read More: Rihanna Just Tweeted the Dutch Prime Minister Because She Wants to Get Every Child in School

Education for girls means better health, economies that grow faster, and even a fighting chance against climate change. It means an extra $92 billion a year to the economies of lower and middle-income countries, a lower probability of child marriage, or contracting HIV. Give a girl 12 years of school and it means a better chance of their children inheriting all this, too.

Mark Rutte has got the chance to do something spectacular. Will he answer the calls of the movement and keep the promise he made to the world in February?

Come join our team, Rutte — there’s an awful lot of us, and there’s some serious work to do.