Educating girls is one of the most powerful instruments for lifting people out of poverty, minimizing inequality, and can lay the foundation for sustained economic growth. For every year of education, a girl attains, her future earning potential increases by 10 percent. A child whose mother can read is 50 percent more likely to live beyond the age of 5 years, twice as likely to attend school themselves - and 50 percent more likely to be immunized.
Nonetheless, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some 132 million girls who should have been attending school were not.
The reasons for this are many and vary from country to country. They include poverty, gender inequality and discrimination, and gender-based violence, including child, forced marriage. Recently, at the peak of the pandemic, COVID-19 interrupted the education of around 1.6 billion children. UNESCO estimates that 11 million girls may not return to school after the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why, in early May, the G-7, an intergovernmental organization consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, issued the Girls’ Education Declaration, which sets two new ambitious global targets on girls’ education in low and lower middle-income countries. The first goal is to get 40 million more girls into school by the year 2026. The second is to help ensure that 20 million more girls can read by the age of 10 by the year 2026.
The United States supports the G-7’s Girls’ Education Declaration. “We know that unless we can get these girls back in school, the world risks producing a ‘lost generation’,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power, who represented the United States during the recent G-7 Foreign and Development Ministerial.
“American assistance plays a key role in improving girls’ lives from the day they are born to the day they reach adulthood, tailored to meet their specific needs throughout their development. Our government-wide strategy is designed to ensure that girls are educated, healthy, and free from fear, violence, and discrimination across their lives,” she said.
“Some of the biggest returns on investment we see in our U.S. foreign assistance come from our work to ensure that women achieve their full potential. For every 10 percent rise in girls’ school attendance, a country’s GDP rises by 3 percent,” said Administrator Power.
“Together, we can build on decades of experience in supporting girls’ education to ensure we don’t lose a generation of talent and potential.”