Knowledge is power – and that’s why the UK has pledged £100 million of funding toward the education of the world’s most impoverished girls.
The announcement was made by the UK’s international development secretary, Justine Greening, at the first Girl’s Education Forum, a gathering of governments, civil society representatives and education champions who were meeting to agree on an action plan to ensure all children worldwide receive a quality primary and secondary education by 2030. The money will be delivered through the Girls’ Education Challenge, which targets the world’s most marginalized girls: those who have dropped out of school, are in severe poverty, victims of child marriage, and those who have early pregnancies.
Although Greening’s announcement is controversial among some in the UK, the international development secretary is committed to the cause. In the past five years, the UK has helped 11 million kids get an education by training 177,000 teachers, building classrooms, and providing textbooks, according to the UK government. After this initial success, Greening pledged last year that the UK would help an additional 6.5 million girls between 2015 and 2020.
The goal of this specific funding will be to maximize the number of impoverished girls who get to attend school. Greening says it will give them some “choice and control over their futures.”
“Education doesn’t just shape individuals, it shapes countries – but right now too many young girls are deprived of an education simply because of their gender,” Greening said. “(This) event is about putting a spotlight on that, and focusing on what education can do to unlock prospects for girls around the world.”
Evidence shows that education for girls can have a variety of benefits, including increasing a girl’s earning power, preventing early marriages and pregnancies, and helping to break the cycle of poverty, according to Public Finance International’s Emma Rumney. In addition to building up their own lives, educating women can help the country as a whole. Evidence shows GDP per capita increases .37% with each additional year of education, according to a report published last year by Unesco, the UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation.
According to Greening’s announcement, it is estimated that 63 million girls are out of school worldwide; over half of these girls are in sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, 75 percent of these girls start school, only eight percent finish secondary school. Some of the factors that cause these girls to drop out include early marriage, the cost of education, and early pregnancy. It is also estimated that globally, two-thirds of women are illiterate and less than half of countries have achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education, according to the Unesco report.
“When we educate girls, we see reduced child deaths, healthier children and mothers, fewer child marriages and faster economic growth,” said Julia Gillard, the board chair of the Global Partnership for Education. “Investing in girls and women isn’t just morally right: it is essential for the development of families, communities and countries.”
Although most agree that girls around the world should be educated, the barriers are high due to cultural differences. In some of the most impoverished countries, many families prioritize a son’s education over a daughter’s. In addition, girls are often kept home during menstruation due to a lack of bathrooms and as a result of stigma.
“Tens of thousands of Global Citizens have taken action to support this financial commitment, but there is still so much more to be done,” said Amy Agnew, Europe director of Global Citizen. “Globally, funding for education has been woefully neglected and still, millions of girls remain out of school. Global Citizen supports Britain’s long standing commitment to the poorest people in the world and we call on all world leaders to step up and prioritize investment in the future of girls.”