GEN­DER EQUAL­ITY MUST BE A PRI­OR­ITY FOR G7 LEAD­ERS

StarMetro Vancouver - - BIG OPINIONS -

Are G7 lead­ers in­ter­ested in gen­der equal­ity?

This year the an­swer could be yes. Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau has placed gen­der is­sues on the sum­mit agenda. That means that lead­ers of some of the world’s most pow­er­ful na­tions will dis­cuss is­sues while con­sid­er­ing the im­pact of their de­ci­sions on girls and women around the world.

I hope they’ll also rec­og­nize that 130 mil­lion out-of-school girls in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have a mea­sur­able im­pact on G7 coun­tries’ economies, prospects for peace, pub­lic health and so much more.

Girls’ ed­u­ca­tion grows economies. Mil­lions more

ed­u­cated girls means more work­ing women with the po­ten­tial to add up to $12 tril­lion (U.S.) to global growth.

On the other hand, we are fac­ing a global skills cri­sis. By 2020, the world could have 40 mil­lion job va­can­cies, but not enough ed­u­cated work­ers to fill them. Without sub­stan­tial new in­vest­ments in sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, many coun­tries will face a sur­plus of low-skilled work­ers and a short­age of pro­fes­sion­als, lead­ing to high un­em­ploy­ment and ma­jor

gaps in the labour mar­ket.

Send­ing all girls to school for 12 years re­duces con­flict and fos­ters sta­bil­ity through­out coun­tries and re­gions. Pop­u­la­tions with a sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion are three times more likely to sup­port democ­racy than peo­ple with no ed­u­ca­tion. And ed­u­ca­tion is crit­i­cal to se­cu­rity around the world be­cause ex­trem­ism grows along­side in­equal­ity — in places where peo­ple feel they have no op­por­tu­nity, no voice, no hope.

When they in­vest in girls’ ed­u­ca­tion, coun­tries can also im­prove pub­lic health, mit­i­gate the ef­fects of cli­mate change and re­cover faster from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

So, with rates of re­turn this high, why are 130 mil­lion girls still out of school? When we know refugee chil­dren are fu­ture lead­ers on whom we will all de­pend for peace, why are 75 per cent of them un­able to ac­cess sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion?

For far too long, G7 lead­ers have over­looked girls — a crit­i­cal so­lu­tion to many of the prob­lems they try to solve at sum­mit af­ter sum­mit. This year, this G7 must be­gin to re­verse that trend.

As a mem­ber of Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau’s Gen­der Equal­ity Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, I of­fer no apolo­gies when I say I joined this group to en­cour­age G7 lead­ers to pri­or­i­tize girls’ ed­u­ca­tion.

In our rec­om­men­da­tions, my fel­low coun­cil mem­bers and I call on lead­ers to “pro­vide pol­icy and fund­ing sup­port to de­vel­op­ing and con­flict-af­fected coun­tries to im­prove ac­cess to a min­i­mum of 12 years of free, safe, qual­ity gen­der­re­spon­sive ed­u­ca­tion.” I can think of no greater legacy for Canada’s G7 Sum­mit than this.

SO, WITH RATES OF RE­TURN THIS HIGH, WHY ARE 130 MIL­LION GIRLS STILL OUT OF SCHOOL?

JOSSY OLA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pak­istani ac­tivist Malala Yousafzai, cen­tre right, speaks with school girls in Maiduguri Nige­ria in 2017. Yousafzai is ask­ing the G7 lead­ers to give at least $1.3 bil­lion (U.S.) over the next three years to get more girls in school.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.