Education, education: tackling poverty

Vision learns how economic growth can be stimulated in poorer nations by helping to improve educational opportunities for girls

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai made global headlines in 2011 when she was shot by the Taliban for demanding education for girls. In June, she captured the media spotlight again when she marked her 16th birthday with a dramatic speech to the United Nations in New York, in which she said education could change the world.

“Let us pick up our books and pens,” she said. “They are our most powerful weapons.”

In the battle to eradicate global poverty, girls’ education is a critical tool. Across the world, equal access to schools is a gateway to lower infant and child mortality rates, improved public health and upward economic growth. Educate a girl and you reduce her risk of child marriage, give her a greater say in the number of children she bears and bolster her earning capacity. Every additional year of secondary education can increase future wages by 15 to 25 per cent.

It is no coincidence that some of the world’s poorest countries also lack gender parity in schools. In Somalia, only 55 girls are enrolled in school for every 100 boys. In Afghanistan, 66 girls attend school for every 100 boys.

Dubai Cares, a charity established by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, has long supported educational initiatives in developing nations. In October, the charity pledged to invest US$6m to fund education programmes for girls in South Sudan, Mozambique and the Philippines. The money will be distributed over four years in partnership with the development agency Plan International Canada (PIC), and will be used to bolster primary school attendance, to increase the number of girls continuing to secondary education, and to tackle barriers such as early marriage and child labour.

“Education, we believe, is the number one way to solve poverty,” said Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares. “Girls are the future mothers of any society. Every girl that receives an education is more likely to make education a priority for her children. It’s a ripple effect of positive change in the community and country.”

The split of funding across the three countries has not yet been confirmed, but it is expected to help “tens of thousands of girls”, Al Gurg said.

It is the largest single funding announcement made by Dubai Cares to date this year. Plan International Canada will also contribute a further 10 to 15 per cent in addition to the Dubai Cares pledge of US$6m.

“These three countries are ones where it is very difficult to attract international donors, and they each have very unique needs,” said Tanjina Mirza, Vice President of International Programmes, PIC. “But if there is one change we want to make to eradicate global poverty, it is [to improve] education for girls.”