Closing the education gap for the world's girls

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Girls’ education is in crisis: across the developing world girls and women are still more likely to be deprived educational opportunities than boys and the gap must be closed.

From rhetoric to reality’, a new report from the Global Campaign for Education that I co-authored which we lanched at a parliamentary reception with the UK’s Minister for International Development, points out that although more girls, but far from all, now have an increased chance to access school, the challenge of true gender equality goes much deeper.

The multiple barriers and discriminations faced by girls means that, once they have enrolled, they are more likely than boys to drop out or to be forced out of school and are less likely to successfully complete their education.

The report also sets out the compelling and urgent case for investing in the education of girls, pointing out that women with higher levels of education are more likely to delay and space out their pregnancies and to seek out health care and that a child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age five.

Education save the lives of women and their children, empowers individuals and transforms communities. But despite the clear case for providing girls with an education the gender divide persists, in part because insufficient action and attention by international donors.

A fundamental feature of the report is its belief  that the UK can make a decisive contribution to turning this situation around.

The UK is a world leader in efforts to support education which, together with the Secretary of State for International Development’s personal commitment to girls’ education, means that our government is perfectly placed to lead an international push to close the gender gap in education.

The report sets out across six critical areas how exactly Department for International Development (DFID) could do exactly that. They are:

• Improve learning opportunities for girls

• Support girls’ transition to secondary school

• Tackle the global crisis in women’s illiteracy

• Support education during humanitarian crises

• Protect girl students and their teachers from attack

• Provide more and better aid

Speaking at the launch the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, Stephen O’Brien MP, spoke at the launch of the document and affirmed both DFID’s commitment to education in general, and the priority of girls education in particular.

He also indicated that the Department is currently exploring a new funding initiative aimed at supporting girls education, which I’d very much welcome. Getting a breakthrough on this issue requires new and innovative thinking and undoubtedly new funding.

Through the Global Campaign for Education, I will be working to build on the UK’s interest and commitment to girls education, to secure the implementation of the 28 recommendations in ‘From rhetoric to results’.