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Countries Failing to Educate Girls Lose Trillions

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, says a new World Bank report.

The report was released in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of  Malala Fund, based out of Birmingham, England, which works to provide safe, quality secondary education and opportunities for girls.

When the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, writes Yousafzai, “…they banned many things, such as owning a television and playing music. They enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.”

Yousafzai’s father was a teacher who ran the girls’ school in her town, so she continued attending school. At the age of 15, on her way home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

She survived – and now, at 21, Yousafzai is furthering her education, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

She is a world-renowned activist, campaigning for education, equality and peace for all children everywhere. The United Nations has declared July 12 to be Malala Day.

The World Bank report, “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” documents that fewer than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three girls completes lower secondary school.

Globally 89 percent of girls complete primary education, but only 77 percent complete lower secondary education, usually nine years of schooling.

The report finds that on average, women who have a secondary education are more likely to work, and they earn almost twice as much as women with no education.

Other positive effects of secondary school education for girls include: near-elimination of child marriage before the age of 18, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.

“When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health and stability,” said Yousafzai.

“If leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start with serious investments in girls’ secondary education,” she said. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls.”

Tech giant Apple® is doing just that. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, Apple launched a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ educational opportunities.

Apple’s academies are preparing thousands of future developers to code the advancements of the future. Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that the company expects to bring the program to countries around the world.

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilizing thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” said Cook, announcing the new partnership.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” said Cook.

As part of its new expansion into Latin America, Malala Fund, too, has offered grants to local advocates in Brazil.

The advocates join Malala Fund’s network and will implement projects across the country designed to empower girls, teachers and policymakers through skills development, school enrollment efforts and education advocacy.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” said Yousafzai in Rio. “Whether she wants to be a developer, a pilot, a dancer or a politician, education is the best path to a brighter future. By tapping into Apple’s network of student developers, Malala Fund will gain access to new tools to support our mission of free, safe, quality education.”

Many of the potential impacts of education on development outcomes apply to both boys and girls. But the World Bank report finds that not educating girls is especially costly because of the relationships between education, child marriage, and early childbearing, and the risks that they entail for young mothers and their children.

“We cannot keep letting gender inequality get in the way of global progress,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria.

“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions. It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone,” Georgieva said.

Today, some 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17, the majority of whom are adolescents, are still not in school.

To remedy these missed opportunities, investments in education – both access and quality – are crucial. This is  especially true in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 40 percent of girls complete lower secondary school, says the World Bank report.

Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce.

The World Bank reports that universal secondary education for girls could increase their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empower them to make decisions about their own health care. It could reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, improve their sense of psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of under-five mortality and malnutrition among their children.

Educating girls and promoting gender equality is part of a broader and holistic effort at the World Bank, which includes financing and analytical work to remove financial barriers that keep girls out of school, prevent child marriage, improve access to reproductive health services, and strengthen skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women.

Since 2016, the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.

The World Bank report was published with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Global Partnership for Education, and Malala Fund.

Featured Images: Girls from the tiny village of Karche Khar near Kargil, India. From left: Maqsuma is in class 5 at the army school; Fatima is in class 4 at the local school.


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‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ Means Gender Equality

IndiaWomenRiceBy Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “Women and girls are critical to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, inequality and the recovery of the communities hardest hit by conflicts, disasters and displacements,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa in her message for International Women’s Day – today.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

As UN under-secretary-general and executive director of the agency UN Women, Mlambo-Ngcuka (pronounced: mlam-bo hu-ka) is living proof.

A member of the first democratically elected South African Parliament in 1994, she rose to serve as deputy president of South Africa from 2005 to 2008, the first woman to hold that position.

The UN agency she heads today was created in 2010 to direct UN activities on gender equality.

“The participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies,” she said.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” and communities throughout the world are taking steps to let their views be heard.

The official International Women’s Day 2016 website enables visitors to browse or search thousands of events celebrating this unique day: global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, fun runs, corporate events, performances, political events and online digital gatherings.

Investment and environment are linked in an event being held both online and in person by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington, DC.

Over breakfast, a Q & A discussion on why and how gender equality and women’s empowerment matter for environmental sustainability will feature participants from the World Resources Institute (WRI), Conservation International, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Bank, among others.

Members of the public can join in via WebEx meeting or join in by phone. Click here for connection details.

The World Bank is hosting a global live chat on a second draft Environmental and Social Framework that bank personnel believe is “better for people, the environment, and for our borrowers.”

The World Bank has consulted in 33 countries on this proposal, and now wants public comments in a live chat with an expert panel from the World Bank. People can submit questions in advance here .

In Europe, health issues are first and foremost.

To mark the day, the civil society network WECF has published “Women and Chemicals,” an examination of the impacts of highly hazardous pesticides, mercury, and endocrine disrupting chemicals on the health of women everywhere.

Initially called Women in Europe for a Common Future, but now using only the acronym WECF, this international network of 150+ organizations works for a healthy environment and gender-justice in over 50 countries.

In the new publication, WECF calls for more political action for better health protection from harmful chemicals.

Corinne Lepage, chair of the WECF Board of Trustees and a former French environment minister, is worried especially about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can interfere with the natural hormones in the bodies of not only females, but males as well.

“Although we know about the threat to environment and human health, the EU Commission so far has not been able to regulate EDCs,” Lepage worries.

“In particular women and men who are planning to have children, need to be better protected from and informed about EDCs,” LePage said. “This report is a good starting point to show the linkage between chemical exposure of women and increasing rates of diseases and that political action is needed now.”

Women may be exposed to toxins when they work as pesticide sprayers, waste pickers, house cleaners or plastics industry employees, and, of course, women consume products that contain toxins.

Exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to non-communicable diseases such as breast cancer, infertility or diabetes. These non-communicable diseases are today the biggest global threat to women’s health – and they are still on the rise.

WECF is one of 68 organizations that co-signed a letter to the 28 environment ministers of the European Union urging them to call on the European Commission to immediately comply with the December 2015 ruling of the European Court of Justice in the case of Sweden vs. Commission on scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors.

The letter from EDC-Free Europe states, “Scientists, health professionals and medical doctors have increasingly warned that EDCs can contribute to diseases and disorders like hormonal cancers (prostate, testicular, breast), reproductive health problems, impaired child development, and obesity and diabetes.”

WECF’s Alexandra Caterbow demanded, “Immediate steps have to be taken to end use of highly hazardous pesticides, to strictly regulate EDCs such as bisphenol A from consumer products and packaging, to ban mercury use in artisanal small gold mining, and to promote the use of safer substitutes and non-chemical alternatives.”

To celebrate the launch of its report, WECF will be hosting an Ask Me Anything on Reddit where the general public can ask questions on the findings.

Law enforcement for women is rising to the top as an important function to keep women safe.

UN Women, the Police Cadet Academy, Thailand Institute of Justice and the Embassy of Sweden came together to organize the Youth Dialogue on Gender Equality with Police Cadets in Nakorn Pathom, Thailand on March 7.

UN Women has partnered with the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney General in training police cadets and police investigative officers to protect women, end violence against women and implement the Domestic Violence Law.

Since 2012, UN Women has helped train 555 police officers.

In another part of the world, Palestinian and Israeli activists took part Friday in a demonstration in the West Bank city of Bethlehem calling for a better future for both peoples ahead of International Women’s Day.

On Monday in Jerusalem, victims of sexual abuse hugged each other after taking part in a project to speak out against sexual violence.

Some actions take the form of non-action. The UN Development Program in Afghanistan plans to stop publishing photographs on its website to highlight the plight of Afghan women, a UN official said Sunday.

Many actions today are a pledge of future action for gender parity.

The campaign theme hash tag of #pledgeforparity urges readers to take the pledge as champions of gender parity.

A host of corporate leaders have pledged to achieve gender parity in their own organizations and in the wider world, people such as Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; and Sir Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who said, “Equipping women with the tools to achieve their full potential in the workplace empowers us all.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – image courtesy of Flicker UN Women Gallery
Header image Caption: Women working in their rice paddy fields in Odisha, India’s poorest region. Trócaire works with communities to help them access government support. (Photo by Justin Kernoghan courtesy Trócaire) creative commons license via Flickr