As we join the rest of the world in celebrating International Day of the Girl under the theme With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, my thoughts are with those millions of girls globally who have never stepped into a classroom or have only been in a classroom for a few years.
I remember when I was a girl my dream was to become a teacher. I was privileged to have female teachers from primary to secondary school who inspired me and encouraged me to do well. I also had the support of my parents who always told me that I could become whoever I wanted to be, if I focused on my education. I was able to achieve my dream because of this support and the opportunities presented to me.
Without those privileges, girls should be supported to stay in school. Governments need to invest in quality education services to enable and encourage this, as well as go further so that girls proceed to secondary and tertiary levels of education.
Today 10 percent of primary aged girls globally are still out of school. Many more have not been able to progress to secondary school and still need support to develop foundational skills in literacy and numeracy. Every year 12 million girls are married off before the age of 18, depriving them of their rights to education, health and a life of their choice. Increasing girls’ participation in the workforce will require addressing the many barriers to decent work they face, including child marriage, early motherhood and gender-based violence.
ActionAid has collected evidence that shows governments are giving away vast sums in what the IMF terms as harmful tax incentives and even just a portion of these sums, if allocated to education, could ensure all girls and boys have access to quality public education. In addition, investing in girls’ education in particular yields dramatic economic returns over the long term. So investing in girls’ education today is not just a means to ensure that one of their fundamental rights are fulfilled, it also makes very good economic sense.
We also need to change stereotypes, social norms and unconscious bias in relation to gender roles to enable girls to have the same learning and career opportunities as boys and reach their highest potential. Let us increase girls’ participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning.
Therefore on International Day of the Girl, let’s stand with her – the future leader, entrepreneur, teacher, scientist, pilot, and software engineer – to develop skills now and to remove other gender barriers she faces, so that she and every girl can join A Skilled GirlForce.