Canada urged to cham­pion girls’ ed­u­ca­tion at G7

Asks to fo­cus on girls’ school­ing as head of G7


• In­terim Con­ser­va­tive leader Rona Am­brose wants Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to an­swer Pak­istani ac­tivist Malala Yousafzai’s call to put ad­vanc­ing girls’ ed­u­ca­tion at the heart of Canada’s turn at the helm of the G7.

Am­brose met with the 19-year-old No­bel Peace Prize win­ner and newly minted honorary Cana­dian ci­ti­zen Wed­nes­day af­ter she used a speech to Par­lia­ment to charm and chal­lenge Cana­di­ans to do more for girls’ ed­u­ca­tion.

“The world needs lead­er­ship based on serv­ing hu­man­ity — not based on how many weapons you have. Canada can take that lead,” Yousafzai said.

She urged the gov­ern­ment to make the is­sue the cen­tral ini­tia­tive of next year’s G7 pres­i­dency, and also to host the re­plen­ish­ment con­fer­ence of the Global Part­ner­ship for Ed­u­ca­tion, a mul­ti­lat­eral or­ga­ni­za­tion that has re­ceived close to $200 mil­lion in Cana­dian fund­ing since 2007.

“I am ask­ing that your gov­ern­ment an­swer Malala’s call,” Am­brose writes in a let­ter to Trudeau re­leased Thurs­day.

Am­brose was the Con­ser­va­tive sta­tus of women min­is­ter when Canada last hosted the G7, where the gov­ern­ment’s ma­ter­nal, new­born and child health project — an ef­fort that be­come known as the Muskoka ini­tia­tive — was the cen­tre­piece.

“Malala asked us to seize ev­ery op­por­tu­nity for girls’ ed­u­ca­tion over the next year,” she writes. “My party and I stand with Malala, and I hope you agree with me in mak­ing girls’ ed­u­ca­tion Canada’s cen­tral legacy project for the G7 pres­i­dency.”

Trudeau met with Yousafzai af­ter her speech as well, say­ing he was in­spired by her words and looks for­ward to re­new­ing Canada’s ef­forts to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the world.

The Lib­er­als are pre­par­ing to an­nounce a new in­ter­na­tional aid pol­icy, with women and girls ex­pected as a ma­jor fo­cus. Cana­dian in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance to the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor in 201516 was ap­prox­i­mately $377 mil­lion, down from $457 mil­lion the year be­fore, gov­ern­ment re­ports show.

Yousafzai spoke of the ben­e­fits that flow from in­creased ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion for girls, but next door to her home coun­try of Pak­istan, whether in­ter­na­tional aid dol­lars for ed­u­ca­tion are achiev­ing those kinds of re­sults is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Global Af­fairs Canada of­fi­cials say they are still look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity that Cana­dian dol­lars put into a World Bank pro­gram to in­crease girls’ ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion in Afghanistan may have dis­ap­peared into the pock­ets of cor­rupt of­fi­cials.

Last De­cem­ber, Afghanistan’s ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter told the coun­try’s news me­dia that while the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment said 11 mil­lion kids were in school, it ap­peared only six mil­lion had been en­rolled.

The schools and their teach­ers are funded through a World Bank pro­gram called the Ed­u­ca­tion Qual­ity Im­prove­ment Project, to which Canada has do­nated more than $117.6 mil­lion since 2006.

“Since these al­le­ga­tions were made, Canada has en­gaged with part­ners, in­clud­ing the World Bank, which is as­sess­ing the va­lid­ity of the in­for­ma­tion and whether fraud has oc­curred,” Brit­tany Ven­hola-Fletcher, a spokesper­son for Global Af­fairs Canada, said in an email.

“Canada is also fol­low­ing up on these al­le­ga­tions di­rectly with the Afghan Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. Fur­ther ac­tions will be de­ter­mined fol­low­ing the re­sults of these as­sess­ments.”

Ear­lier this month, John Sopko, the U.S. spe­cial in­spec­tor gen­eral for Afghanistan re­con­struc­tion, met with for­eign af­fairs of­fi­cials as part of a trip to Canada or­ga­nized by the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa.

Sopko con­tin­ues to in­ves­ti­gate the so-called ghost schools is­sue; a re­view of schools in Balkh prov­ince re­leased in March found while of­fi­cials re­ported an en­rol­ment of 2,461 at the 26 schools in­spected, only about 30 per cent were ob­served at­tend­ing at the time of in­spec­tion.

He said he had frank con­ver­sa­tions with Cana­di­ans about on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into schools and other projects, and of­fered the sup­port of his of­fice.


In­terim Con­ser­va­tive leader Rona Am­brose speaks with Pak­istani ac­tivist Malala Yousafzai dur­ing her visit to Par­lia­ment Hill on Wed­nes­day.


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