G20 acknowledge the value of education, but fail to commit to action

Barry Johnston

Courtesy of Alicia Vera for Malala Fund

Barry Johnston

Barry led Malala Fund's international advocacy with governments and international organisations.

Last year, the G20 Leaders’ declaration — an annual agenda-setting document produced by leaders of some of the world’s largest economies — included just one sentence about girls’ education.

Thanks to the Argentinian G20 Presidency, this year’s agenda included education as a priority theme for the first time. The G20 dedicated a working group, a Ministerial Summit and a full paragraph of the Leaders’ declaration to the importance of education in creating sustainable growth and development — especially for girls and women.

This new enthusiasm is evidence that Malala Fund and our allies are successfully convincing leaders in politics and business that educating girls is key to building stable and prosperous economies.

Ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting in July, Malala Fund and the World Bank published research revealing that women and girls could add up to $30 trillion to the global economy if all girls completed secondary school.

In October, Malala Fund launched our Full Force campaign with a report showing that almost one billion girls and young women lack the skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Business leaders like Apple CEO Tim Cook and the G20 Business Women Leaders Task Force joined our efforts to highlight the link between girls’ education and economic growth. They recognise that the success of their businesses and the health of the global economy depends on girls learning the skills they need to thrive.

Why target the G20? The G20 is an important forum for global decision-making. Its countries contain 80% of the world’s wealth — and one-third of the world’s out-of-school girls. In a positive step for girls’ education, G20 leaders agreed:

Access to education is a human right and a strategic public policy area for the development of more inclusive, prosperous and peaceful societies. We underline the importance of girls’ education. To equip our citizens to reap the benefits of societal and technological innovations we will … develop comprehensive strategies that promote key competencies such as learning to learn, foundation and digital skills, in a lifelong learning perspective from early childhood.

We also commit to … the development of women and girls’ digital skills and increasing their participation in STEM and high-tech sectors.

But words on a page do little to help girls. That’s why — before the leaders departed Buenos Aires — Malala Fund was preparing for the Japanese G20 Presidency next year and asking for real action and commitments to support girls.

Our Full Force report identifies four steps the G20 should take to help get girls in school and learning the skills they need for the future of work. These include:

  • Increasing funds for countries with comprehensive plans to educate girls with the skills they need
  • Sharing best practice between countries
  • Measuring what’s working
  • Holding countries accountable

Next year, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the G20 must move from political commitment to collective action and shared accountability. The futures of one billion girls and the health of our global economy are resting on it.

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