The fight to end extreme poverty cannot be won without education. When people have access to a quality education, they’re more likely to live healthy, poverty-free lives. In fact, a quality education for all would be the most effective tool against poverty and instability worldwide.
People who are denied equal access to a quality education do not have a fair chance at escaping poverty. This reality continues to affect the world’s girls. Although more girls are now attending primary school, there are still big gender gaps in how many get a secondary education. Child marriage, unfair amounts of chores, gender-based violence, and other forms of discrimination also affect a girl’s ability to finish school.
Denying girls a quality education also harms the next generation, making it harder for whole communities to come out of poverty.
Luckily, activists around the globe are fighting back. We wanted to highlight two of these activists (who also contributed to our gender equality open letter).
Here’s why they want world leaders to support education, and what needs to happen to secure a quality education for everyone:
After becoming the first black woman to fly for the South African Police Service, Refilwe Ledwaba founded The Girl Fly Programme in Africa Foundation to teach girls about careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The camp specifically focuses on STEM skills to prepare girls for the jobs of the future.
According to Refilwe, it is “imperative that women are encouraged to take a strong lead in being technical and embracing STEM fields.”
Refilwe believes that ensuring primary and secondary education for everyone is an important step. However, “the kind and quality of education” is even more important. There is also the need to change how the media portrays women:
“Women need to be shown as engineers, pilots, doctors … When there is an advert for washing powder, women are the lead roles, and when there is an ad showing a car, an aeroplane, (or) pilots, men are in the lead role. This also needs to change.”
She hopes for a world where everyone can be what they want, creating a prosperous world for all.
Martha Muhwezi, Executive Director of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), is wholly dedicated to her organization’s mission. She fights for girls’ education on every level because she knows how powerful it is.
“Education has the potential to become an equalizer that will foster gender equality for women and girls … imparts them with the requisite skills and competencies they need to benefit from individual returns, which in turn will affect social and economic returns.”
FAWE promotes gender equity and equality through working across policies, schools, teachers, communities, and individual girls. Working at all these different angles allows FAWE to work towards multiple solutions in the complex problem of education access.
“Both schooling AND empowerment that need to go hand in hand. Indeed, acquiring skills and competencies to enter the labor market is one part of the story. And empowerment is another part of the story to ensure that girls and women acquire agency that will allow them to thrive and exert choice.”
Empowering individual girls isn’t the only key. The environment around the girls also needs to support them and give them the opportunity to thrive.
“Changes in communities and homes will enable girls to attend school. Changes in school, the teacher’s pedagogical approach, and the girls themselves, reinforced by changes in policy, communities, and homes, will ensure that girls stay in school and learn and contribute to the economic development of their country.”
Committing to Education at the G7
Refilwe and Martha have proven their dedication to educating girls. Now, it’s time for G7 leaders to do the same.
World leaders will meet at the G7 Summit in August to discuss their priorities. We want them to pledge financial aid that will help get girls into school. If they do, we’ll get even closer to the world these activists are working towards. These activists have spoken and now’s your turn to stand with them.