Start with a Girl

October 8, 2009
by Jennifer Maurer

On October 10, the Center for Global Development launched a new report that underscores the central role girls play in global development and poverty alleviation. Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer spoke at the launch of Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health and reminded us that we should look at “girls and women not as victims, but as agents of change.” When girls reach adolescence, explained Vermeer, they reach a dangerous “precipice” filled with the trap doors of poverty, violence, sexuality without access to health information, lack of access to secondary education, and child marriage.

Among other important variables including economic opportunity (Yunus was an advisor), the report highlights the critical link between access to education and the health of girls and women. Ambassador Verveer spoke specifically about how too many girls are unable to attend secondary school for a myriad of reasons, including marriage, finances, lack of schools, sexual exploitation at unsafe schools…. While we can’t relent on getting all kids into primary school (Verveer stressed we need to eliminate fees), we must also fight to expand the education agenda to include access to secondary school, especially for girls. I left the briefing more convinced that a new Global Fund for Education is the only way we are going to achieve our Education for All goals.

The report concludes by asking, “Who will take the next step?” My hope is the next time I hear Verveer speak, the answer will be, “We did, by helping to galvanize the world to create a Global Fund for Education.” Civil society in both the global North and South must continue to work to create the political will to create a new, effective, and accountable global education funding mechanism to get and keep girls in primary and secondary school.

RESULTS met earlier this year with Ambassador Verveer to discuss the impact of TB and education on girls and women, and we’ll continue to reach out to the administration and work with our education allies to create positive change for all marginalized populations.

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