During a recent visit to London, US First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled a plan for the United States to partner with the United Kingdom in an effort to improve upon educational access for girls around the world.
The partnership between the two countries will create an almost $200 million effort to support the education of adolescent girls across the globe. An increased portion of the funding will go toward “countries affected by conflict and crisis,” and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is poised to receive $180 million over the next five years, which will help educate over 755,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 18.
“I just think about how much we are losing when we don’t tap into that energy. That there are 62 million girls out there who are just as bright, just as impactful potentially, just as passionate, but who have no voice, no opportunity, no resources to develop into the young women you all will be,” the First Lady said.
In an article for the Financial Times, Obama said that girls around the world are frequently subjected to “insurmountable barriers” such as school fees they cannot afford, early or forced marriages, pregnancy, and a widespread belief that girls do not deserve to receive an education.
Efforts to improve access to education will include enrolling students into accelerated elementary school programs, decreasing barriers to education, as well as pushing for increased parental and community support. The quality of materials used for both teaching and learning will also rise, as will the overall governance of schools, writes David Wright for CNN.
Data will be shared between the US and the UK concerning the education of adolescent girls from a variety of advocacy and academic organizations, such as Cambridge University and Georgetown University, in order to “produce research and provide guidance and technical support” through USAID’s Education in Conflict and Crisis Network.
Those who support the program report say that a quality education can lead to better chances for girls to maintain a decent standard of living, raise a healthy family, and improve their overall quality of life, reports Henry Ridgwell for Voice of America.
In addition, girls who attend secondary school are shown to marry and have children later, are less likely to contract HIV/AIDS, and hold higher earning potential. Those girls are also connected to lower maternal and infant mortality rates.
“Girls have incredible potential to be able to contribute to their economy, to contribute to the wealth of communities, but are often prevented from progressing because in many parts of the world there is gender inequality that prevents girls from being able to access school,” said Rocco Blume of the charity Plan International UK..