There are 62 million girls worldwide who are denied access to an education, half of whom are adolescents. Last week, Michelle Obama revealed a social media campaign to raise awareness for her “Let Girls Learn” initiative and the pressing global concern that is lack of access to education.
“Let Girls Learn” partners with US Aid, Peace Corps and the Millennium Change Corporation to “leverage the investments we have made and success we have achieved in global primary school, and expand them to help adolescent girls complete their education.”
As a global society that aims to uphold universal human rights and advance justice, we have a duty to the millions of school-aged girls who are denied their right to an education.
Why girls? Lack of access to an education is a problem that affects both boys and girls in developed countries. So, why the extra focus on educating girls?
Studies show that educating girls has monumental returns. Educated girls marry, have children later, educate their own children and stand up for their rights. Every year of education a girl receives increases her earning power by 10-20 percent. When girls receive an education, their families and communities thrive.
Advancing girls’ education is also a foreign policy imperative. It’s a fact that countries that are home to terrorist movements are also notorious for marginalizing and mistreating females.
Why target adolescent girls in particular? 11 percent of primary school-aged children worldwide are out of school, and the figure rises to 18.5 percent for secondary school-aged children.
While enormous progress has been made in increasing the percentage of primary-aged children in school, the number of secondary school-aged children out of school is still tragically high. This is also where we see a large disparity between the numbers of girls and boys in school. Puberty is when horrors such as genital mutilation and child marriage occur and when many girls are forced to bear children while still being children themselves.
Deeply held cultural beliefs are what drive the inequality in educational opportunity and therefore solutions have to be devised and implemented on the local level. “Let Girls Learn,” along with the Peace Corps, works in communities around the world to develop local-based education programs and initiatives. The thousands of Peace Corps volunteers who live and serve in these communities are transforming girls’ lives.
The global community must step in and assist the fight in whatever way we can. We need to provide the volunteers and resources to ensure that girls around the world are thriving, empowered and educated.
Last Saturday, over 60,000 people crowded the Great Lawn at Central Park to show their support for the United Nations millennial goals. Everyone roared for the ferocity that is Beyoncé. In the middle of her last song, the most powerful woman in music did what no one could have expected and introduced the most powerful woman in politics, Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama, gracing the stage, announced the initiative for educating the 62 million girls across the globe without access to proper schooling. As a male, I believe that it is a ludicrous notion for any patriarchal government to shut down this initiative. While males may not be the physical cause of destruction, a world led by a male majority can only have one general view of society.
While seeing the activists come together to see global leaders and musicians show their support for the development of human life, I couldn’t help but think of how far activism for women’s rights have come. Bob Dylan, one of the most famous activists of his time, wrote a song called “Just Like a Woman,” a song that criticizes his lover’s womanly characteristics and talks down upon her femininity.
In the 1960s, when the age of activism was at an all-time high, even the most active protestor for social change couldn’t get women quite right. It is refreshing to see, in 2015, such a large number of people coming out to support all of the changes that must take place to better our world, including the liberation of women by assuring them an education.
Thus, a mixed gender crowd of over 60,000 waved in the education of 62 million women in the world. The sheer power of both of these numbers is shattering to the largely patriarchal society that we live in. It is a negatively outstanding number of women who are left uneducated by their societies, but a positively outstanding number of people in support of changing this dangerous status quo.
Many men may fear the idea that a woman can be equal in comparison to them; but, as far as I can tell, allowing women into the world made for men, by men, could improve fields dominated by masculinity and will make the global perspective a more well-rounded one.
When men and women at an early age have a paper on their desk, a pen in their hand and a head full of thoughts, then the world will know equality. After all, if a genderless thought can change the world, why should we scrutinize the gender of the thinker?