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Leaders and trailblazers unite with thousands of activists in global campaign to demand education for world’s poorest girls

An eclectic alliance of activists and trailblazers have joined forces to highlight the plight of 130 million girls denied an education globally.

The group – which includes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, actors David Oyelowo and Charlize Theron, American Football star Tom Brady plus musicians Angelique Kidjo and Lady Gaga ­– are spearheading a campaign calling on world leaders and citizens around the world to take urgent action to address the crisis in 2017.

In an open letter organised by the ONE Campaign, they write: “We are coming together and uniting across our divides to get every girl into school and to make sure she gets a quality education once she’s there. But we need you to do the same.”

ONE is asking people around the world to take part in a mass “walk in” on International Women’s Day (March 8), walking into their elected officials’ offices to lobby them on behalf of every girl denied an education.

The campaign has already sparked unprecedented early interest, with 85,000 people registering their involvement to transform the lives and secure a future for the 130 million girls who are out-of-school, and whom if they were the population of a country, would be the tenth largest in the world, just after Russia.

Speaking on behalf of the campaign, ONE’s Roxane Philson said, “An education is the most pivotal factor in a girl’s life. If a girl is in secondary school she is six times less likely to be married early than a girl with little or no education. And a girl with an education is less likely to give birth young and more likely to make her own choices about when and how many children to have.


“Education is crucial to empowerment, and the data shows that when women are empowered, they come up with the smartest solutions and lift everyone out of poverty more quickly. So, if we can solve the education problem, we solve many other problems by extension.”


Analysis collected by ONE shows the powerful effect of investing in girls’ education:


  • If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty.
  • An additional year of schooling is estimated to result in an average 11.7% increase in a woman’s wages.
  • Child marriages would fall by almost two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if all girls had a secondary education.
  • 10% fewer girls globally would become pregnant if all girls had primary education, and 59% fewer with a secondary education.
  • If all women completed primary education the number of mothers dying in childbirth would reduce by two-thirds.

Roxane Philson continued: “Educating girls benefits everyone, but the fact that 130 million girls are out of school and that in some places it is too dangerous for girls to go to school means we are denying ourselves the best chance of progress.

“People who want to help change the lives of millions of girls around the world can join the campaign by adding their own names to the open letter at one.org/letter.”


Notes to Editors:

For media enquiries, please contact Peter Simpson on [email protected] / 07881370441 or Chris Mitchell on [email protected] or 07901006799.

Some of the signatories – full names are listed below – are available for interview to discuss the campaign, which forms part of ONE’s Poverty is Sexist initiative to help girls and women who suffer the most from extreme poverty to prosper

Full letter text:

A Letter to Leaders,

You couldn’t be where you are today without a good education.

 But because poverty is sexist, 130 million girls across the world are denied this basic right. Indeed, if the number of girls out of school formed a country, it would be the tenth largest on the planet – bigger than Japan or Germany.

All children deserve a good education, but in the poorest countries girls are denied it more often than boys. Education is vital for moving out of poverty.  Every additional year of school that a girl completes increases her future earnings, which is good for her family, her community and her country.

We cannot afford to squander the potential of 130 million girls to cure diseases or end wars, invent brilliant technology or revolutionize an industry… or simply to access opportunity.

We are coming together and uniting across our divides to get every girl into school and to make sure she gets a quality education once she’s there.

But we need you to do the same.

Your education helped you to get where you are today – and it is in your power to help millions of girls to get theirs. Please act now, with the right policies and the necessary funds.

Show us that politics can work for the people – starting with the people who need it most.

The list of high-profile signers so far is:

Afrikan Boy – Grime Artist

Alyse Nelson – Vital Voices

Amena Brown – Spoken Word Artist

Angelique Kidjo – Grammy award-winning artist and activist

Arianna Huffington – Co-founder and Former editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post

Asa – Singer

Ashley Graham – Model

Ashley Judd – Actor, Activist

Banky W – Singer

Baroness Verma – Former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development and Ministerial Champion for tackling Violence Against Women & Girls Overseas and Political Champion For Women’s Rights

Blake Lively – Actor

Bob Geldof – Activist and Musican

Bono – Lead singer of U2 and co-founder of ONE

Bumi Thomas – Singer Songwriter

Cathy Newman – Presenter, Channel Four News and blogger, the Telegraph

Charlize Theron – Actor, Founder of Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Christina Lamb – Sunday Times Chief Foreign Correspondent and author

Cindi Leive – Editor-in-Chief, Glamour

Dan Haseltine – Co-founder, Blood:Water

David Burtka – Actor, chef

David Oyelowo – Actor

Diamond – Singer

George Stroumboulopoulos – TV Personality

Guido Schmidt-Traub – Executive Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Helen Clark – Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Helene Gayle – CEO, McKinsey Social Initiative

HHP – Rapper

Hon. Desmond Elliot – Politician and Former actor

Isla Fisher – Actor

Jessica Oyelowo – Actor

Jessica Sipos – Actor

Karen Kornbluh – EVP, Nielsen

Karen Walrond – NY Times Best-selling author

Kathy Calvin – President and CEO, UN Foundation

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith – Actor

Lady Gaga – Performer and Activist

Laura Ling – Journalist and host, Seeker Network

Lauren Bush Lauren – Activist

Leymah Gbowee – Liberian Nobel Peace Prize winning activist

Mabel van Oranje – Initiator/Chair of Girls Not Brides

Maria Russo – Executive Director, Humanity Unified International

Marian Salzman – CEO, Havas PR

Matt Maher – Contemporary Christian Artist

Michael Gerson – Senior Fellow at ONE

Michael W Smith – Contemporary Christian Artist

Michele Sullivan – Caterpillar Foundation

Montel Williams – TV Personality

Moriah Peters – Singer/Songwriter

Muntu Valdo – Musician

Neil Patrick Harris – Actor

Paul Polman – CEO, Unilever

Rachel Rudwall – Explorer, TV Producer

Rashida Jones – Actor

Robin Wright – Actor

Ryan Reynolds – Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen – Actor

Sarah Brown – Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education and the co-founder of A World at School

Selmor – Singer

Sheryl Sandberg – COO, Facebook

Sheryl WuDunn – Co-author, A Path Appears and Half the Sky

Steve Taylor – Singer, songwriter

Susan Markham – Former USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Susan Wojcicki – CEO, YouTube

Tanya Burr – Fashion and beauty Vlogger

Tina Brown – Founder & CEO of Tina Brown Live Media

Tom Brady – American Football Quarterback

Toolz – Radio Presenter

Vanessa Mdee – Singer

Victoria Kimani – Singer

Waje – Singer

Yemi Alade – Singer


About ONE:

The ONE Campaign is a policy and advocacy organization of more than 7 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, it raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and other preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. Find out more at www.one.org .