Broad Coalition of Celebrities, Athletes, Non-Profits Join with USAID to ‘Let Girls Learn’

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For Immediate Release

Friday, June 20, 2014
USAID Press Office
+1.202.712.4320 | Email: USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov | Twitter: @USAIDPress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a major show of support for girls’ education and empowerment around the world, nearly 30 artists and athletes, as well as a host of global non-profits and businesses have joined with the U.S. government to launch Let Girls Learn. The new effort aims to elevate a conversation about the need to support all girls in their pursuit of a quality education. Brought together by heinous acts of violence and intimidation against girls in different parts of the world, the celebrities gathered in New York and Los Angeles to lend their voices to a common message: The right to education is universal and unambiguous. Their video message was released today by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the federal agency coordinating Let Girls Learn. In support of the effort, USAID also announced $231.6 million for new programs to support primary and secondary education and safe learning in Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Jordan, as well as support for Guatemala’s ongoing, successful efforts to improve quality of education for under-served populations. 

“When girls are educated, their families are healthier, they marry later, and they have more opportunities to generate income,” said Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID. “When girls are denied an education, humanity suffers. Let Girls Learn is a movement to tell the world that an educated girl has the power to lift her family and her community out of poverty. It is time for all of us to stand up and support a quality education for girls and boys alike all over the world.”

The U.S. government is committed to improving opportunities for all children in low-income countries to receive a quality education and obtain the skills they need to live healthy and productive lives. This includes an average annual investment of $1 billion by USAID in international education efforts to ensure equitable treatment of boys and girls, to create safe school environments, and to engage communities in support for girls’ education. Together with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Peace Corps, and the U.S. Department of Education, USAID and the United States government have a long history of supporting education programs around the world. 

Today, 62 million girls around the world are not in school. Millions more are fighting to stay there. Some may be growing up in a war. Some may have been married or become pregnant as a young teen. Their families may depend on their income. They may lack access to a safe place to learn, facing harassment, abuse, and discrimination. If they can get to a school—sometimes walking for hours each way—the girls may not have access to proper hygiene facilities. 

The nearly 300 Nigerian girls kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram focused the world’s attention to this critical issue, much as it did with the attack on Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan in 2012. Let Girls Learn is an effort to transform concern into action by spotlighting the work being done to educate and invest in girls around the world. Organizations partnering with Let Girls Learn include CARE, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children, the Burkle Global Impact Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Child Fund, and others. 

The U.S. government and its partners know that an educated girl has a ripple effect. 

  • One more year of education increases a woman’s income by up to 25 percent.
  • A girl who has a basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV.
  • Children born to educated mothers are twice as likely to survive past the age of 5.
  • If all women in sub-Saharan Africa had a secondary education, 1.8 million lives would be saved each year.
  • After looking at 100 countries, the World Bank found that increasing the share of women with a secondary education by 1 percent boosts annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percentage points.
  • Countries where women’s share of seats in political bodies are greater than 30 percent are more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic.

In support of Let Girls Learn, USAID also announced today $231.6 million for new programs in Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Jordan, and Guatemala. 

Nigeria

This $91.3 million program will partner with the Government of Nigeria to strengthen the education system, increase enrollment and improve early-grade reading for at least 500,000 children, including 250,000 girls in Northern Nigeria. The program will help to increase the number of girls and boys enrolled in safe, relevant and accredited educational options. It will also focus on providing reading and math courses for Almajiri, or students enrolled in traditional Qur'anic schools who often live in extreme poverty.

Afghanistan

The $56 million Community Based Education program will help to establish 5,000 Community-Based Education (CBE) classes in under-served areas of Afghanistan. These classes will provide access to primary education for 174,000 girls who are not able to attend because government schools are too far from their homes. The addition of 1,300 female teachers will also facilitate the attendance of girls.

The $30 million Afghanistan-American Women’s Scholarship Program will award university scholarships to Afghan women, selected for their academic merit, financial need, and leadership potential. Scholarships will be awarded for undergraduate and graduate programs at universities in countries within the region, helping to promote Afghan women to the next level of leadership. Eighty percent of these scholarships are reserved for Afghan universities—helping to encourage Afghanistan’s most talented women stay in the country and serve their communities.

South Sudan

USAID and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will partner to provide emergency education to girls and boys forced to flee their homes by fighting in six states of South Sudan. USAID is investing $17.4 million in the partnership to fund work with 150,000 school-aged and preschool children, including 60,000 girls, as well as internally displaced children, including those sheltering in the compounds of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan. The project will to reduce gender-based violence, promote female leadership in camp activities, provide safe learning spaces and gender-segregated sanitation facilities, and disseminate information on self-protection and health.

Jordan

Keeping young people in school and reducing dropout rates are key to economic growth and stability in the Middle East and North Africa. Throughout the region, USAID is partnering with ministries of education and schools to roll out early grade reading programs to increase literacy rates, encourage retention, and expand girls’ access to education and a brighter future. In Jordan, USAID is responding to the challenges of the Syria humanitarian crisis by helping girls and others get the knowledge they need to avoid the many vulnerabilities that the conflict has brought on. As part of these efforts, USAID will award a grant for more than $12 million to UNICEF to support the No Lost Generation Initiative by helping Jordanian schools as they provide education to Syrian refugees, including 180,000 children (90,000 girls). 

Guatemala

USAID has more than 40-years of working to secure parity for girls’ education in Guatemala. The nation has made significant progress over the past 20 years in improving education coverage for all children, and now almost every 7-12 year old child is enrolled in primary school, largely due to increased access to education in rural areas. Still, Guatemala has one of the lowest primary school completion rates in Latin America. To continue to support Guatemala, USAID is investing $24.9 million in the Lifelong Learning Project to improve access to and quality of education for under-served populations, including rural indigenous girls and boys, and out-of-school youth. The project will seek to improve primary education in more than 900 rural schools through bilingual and intercultural education for non-Spanish speaking indigenous children, and provide 2,000 out-of-school youth with access to education through alternative primary completion, secondary, and vocational educational opportunities. 

Learn more about what the U.S. government is doing to support girls’ education all over the world by reading this fact sheet. To view the video and learn what organizations around the world are doing to help girls learn and how you can help, please visit www.usaid.gov/letgirlslearn. Finally, tell us about the creative and inspiring ways you are working to help educate girls by visiting Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter today. 

Let Girls Learn was made possible in part by the Burkle Global Impact Initiative at UCLA. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development is leading the U.S. government's efforts to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies.

Last updated: December 15, 2014

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