World leaders gathered this week at a special event in New York to call on the whole world to deliver 12 years of quality education to every single girl.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s Theresa May led the #LeaveNoGirlBehind meeting at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday, to highlight the urgency and importance of educating women and girls.
A promise was made in 2015 to girls all around the world that everyone would have 12 years of quality education by the year 2030. And, while we’re not there yet, international unity on the issue will drive essential progress.
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“There’s a lot of sources of anxiety in the world,” Trudeau told the audience of leaders, activists, and young people. “And we know that one of the most powerful levers to move people forward is through education.”
“We know that empowering through education is key to building a better world, and specifically recognising that for far too long half of our population hasn’t had a real chance, or a fair chance, to get educated, to have the opportunities that they need,” he continued.
“But more than that, it’s not just about fairness, it’s about understanding that if we are to move forward as a world, we need to make sure that everyone, including girls, can achieve their full potential.”
After Trudeau, Macron added that at the “heart of education is access to all, of transmission and emancipation.”
“First of all transmission of knowledge, of wellbeing…and emancipation as well because once you have that framework you give each individual the possibility of conquering the world, of overturning it, of changing social categories, of transforming things in your way, fulfilling your talent,” he said.
May continued: “By denying girls an education we deny them a voice, we deny them the choice, we deny them their future.”
She called on everyone to join the campaign, the Girls Education Challenge, to commit to the individual, collective, and governmental action that is needed to break down barriers to girls’ education, and to increase girls’ access to schools and learning.
“And to ensure that every girl, in every corner of the world, can access the 12 years of education they need to unleash their potential,” she said, “to embrace the opportunities before them, and to help change the world for the better.”
Currently, there are 130 million girls around the world who aren’t in school. And right now, 90% of primary school children in low-income countries can’t read or write.
Girls’ education is a key campaign aim of Global Citizen, which convened Tuesday’s session in partnership with the UK, France, and Canada.
Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, addressed the audience after Prime Minister May, saying: “For too long, education has languished in the shadows of international development, overlooked because other issues were prioritised.”
“It’s always been easier to measure vaccines administered than the quality of a potential of a forgotten child, especially when that child is a girl,” he said. “But fortunately, that tide is turning.”
A milestone moment for #GirlsEducation as governments and civil society come together to discuss what it will take to break down barriers to gender equality in education and #LeaveNoGirlBehind.— UN Girls' Education Initiative (@UNGEI) September 25, 2018
Watch LIVE now: https://t.co/nyp17SdQ9Vpic.twitter.com/OH2inT299D
“These three governments [the UK, Canada, and France] have a passionate constituency of Global Citizens who have taken over 2.3 million actions in support of girls’ education,” he said. “Millions of Global Citizens who want to see change.”
To continue the push for change, May also announced nine new UK aid-supported projects, with the specific aim of targeting the most vulnerable and marginalised girls in the world, to get them into education.
The new projects are part of the second phase of the Department for International Development’s (DfID) flagship Girls Education Challenge, and will support more than 170,000 of the world’s most marginalised girls — including up to 3,500 girls with disabilities.
Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s International development secretary, also spoke out at the session in support of girl’s education, saying: “Girls have the power and potential to play a transformational role in their communities, societies, economies, and political institutions.”
“Yet over 130 million girls around the world are currently missing out on school,” she continued.
Tonight, @Theresa_May, @EmmanuelMacron, and @JustinTrudeau joined us at #UNGA to demand we #LeaveNoGirlBehind.— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) September 25, 2018
“Education helps change the world for the better,” May told a packed audience.
We couldn’t agree more! 👍 #10DowningStreet@DFID_UKpic.twitter.com/6ciFRlvaM2
“To tackle this crisis and reach the most marginalised girls, we need to fully understand the current global situation and identify who is being left behind. UK aid is focused on gathering the right data to help us find out what children are learning and the progress being made.”
Mordaunt added: “With a quality education girls can go on to get jobs and help lift their families out of poverty, helping countries move beyond aid dependence. This is a win for the UK and a win for the developing world.”
Since 2015, the UK’s Department of International Development (DfID) has supported 11.4 million children in gaining a good education.
You can watch the full meeting at the UN General Assembly here.