Learning and Earning at Full Force: A call to leaders from Malala Fund on International Day of the Girl

Go to the profile of Farah Mohamed
Oct 11, 2018

Technology is changing how we live, learn and earn. But Malala Fund’s new Full Force report reveals that one billion girls — one-seventh of the world’s population — are not equipped with digital skills and so are unprepared to participate in the modern workforce.

Malala Fund report, Full Force: Why the world works better when girls go to school

Instead of learning to read or write or code, many girls in low- and middle-income countries spend their days hawking goods, getting married or fleeing conflict. Uneducated and underestimated, these girls face a lifetime of precarious, low-paid and unstable work.

Malala Fund Assembly blog, Coding Gave Me a Voice
Image: Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin

UNESCO estimates that, in the next two years, the world could have 40 million job vacancies but not enough educated workers to fill them. That means greater unemployment and bigger gaps in the labour market.

Solving this starts with ensuring the people who could fill these jobs — millions of girls and young women — can prepare today for the jobs of tomorrow.

In July, Malala Fund and the World Bank released data showing that if all girls completed secondary school, they could add up to USD 30 trillion to the global economy.

Malala Fund and World Bank joint report, Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls

Here’s what else educated girls bring to the table:

  • The Brookings Institution calls secondary schooling for girls the best and most cost-effective investment against climate change
  • Educated girls are less likely to marry young or contract HIV — and more likely to have healthy, educated children
  • When a country gives all its children secondary education, it cuts its risk of war in half

We know that giving all girls 12 years of education would produce world-changing economic and social progress. Yet there is still little consensus — and even less action — around the necessary response.

Today one-third of all out-of-school girls live in G20 countries, which also represent about 90% of global GDP. If leaders fail to revolutionise their approach to educating girls, people everywhere will feel the effects.

The G20 has made a good start by placing education on their agenda for the first time ever. But applauding empty agreements instead of taking action helps no one. Leaders must do much more.

To harness the potential of millions of girls, Malala Fund is calling on the G20 to do three things:

  • increase domestic budgets for education in developing countries to at least 6% of GDP;
  • increase donor contributions to 15% of AOD budgets; and
  • launch a new initiative aimed at giving all girls the digital skills they need for the future of work

This International Day of the Girl, I want leaders to see what I see every day at work — how exposing girls to STEM results in extraordinary creativity and innovation.

Assembly, Malala Fund’s digital publication by girls, for girls, profiled teens in Nigeria who developed a website to teach their community about food security. Kiara Nirghin in South Africa won the Google Science Fair with an invention that hydrates crops during droughts. In China, Ada Li Yan-Tun designed a panda-shaped solar farm to get her generation interested in renewable energy.

Malala Fund Assembly blog, Making solar energy accessible — and adorable
Image: South China Morning Post

These girls’ achievements represent a fraction of the brighter, more prosperous future we could build if we level the gender gap in education and work.

The global economy is missing out on up to USD 30 trillion because too many girls can’t go to school. The future economic and human costs could be far greater — unless we invest in education now. Ahead of the G20 summit next month, Malala Fund urges leaders to match the ambition that girls hold for themselves. The world will be safer, healthier and wealthier for everyone when girls can learn and earn at full force.

Banner image: Malala Fund

Go to the profile of Farah Mohamed

Farah Mohamed

CEO, Malala Fund

As Malala Fund’s Chief Executive Officer, Farah Mohamed leads on guiding and expanding the organisation's work to ensure that all girls have the opportunity to learn for 12 years. Prior to joining, she served as founder and CEO of G(irls)20, a social enterprise dedicated to girls' education and economic participation. Farah also held senior leadership positions at The Belinda Stronach Foundation, VON Canada and worked for several Canadian politicians.

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