Administrator Samantha Power’s Intervention G-7 Ministerial Sustainable Recovery Session Part 2(a): Girls’ Education and Gender

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

As Prepared

On Monday, I had the chance to participate in an unforgettable moment. At my swearing in as USAID Administrator, my young daughter had the chance to meet Kamala Harris, the first woman Vice President of the United States. There, in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office, I witnessed tangible confirmation of something every mother hopes for: that her daughter can dream limitless dreams. Sadly, we all know, what is true for my daughter—or daughters from any of our countries—is that those dreams go unrealized in far too many places.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled millions of girls out of school around the world, posing a risk that they may never return. UNESCO estimates that 11 million girls around the world may never return to school, robbing them of their ability to build a brighter future, not only for their families and communities. For all of us.

While many countries have experimented with virtual education and radio programming, we know that unless we can get these girls back in school, the world risks producing a “lost generation.” Would any of us allow our children to be part of a lost generation? We can’t let that happen.

That’s why the United States has endorsed the G7 Girls’ Education Declaration, and why we so appreciate the UK’s leadership. It’s why we support the increase in targets on girls’ education in low- and lower-middle-income countries to 40 million girls in school and 20 million girls able to read by 2026. And it’s why we are also proud to support the Global Partnership for Education, a complement to the bilateral education assistance we provide around the world. American assistance plays a key role in improving girls’ lives from the day they are born to the day they reach adulthood, tailored to meet their specific needs throughout their development. Our government-wide strategy is designed to ensure that girls are educated, healthy, and free from fear, violence, and discrimination across their lives.

We want to build on a long history of creating better access to quality education, particularly for young girls, because we all know that girls’ access to education is one of the most powerful forces for driving economic development, prosperity, and security. When girls stay in school, they are healthier, they marry later, they are more likely to participate in the formal economy, and the world, by all measures, gets better.

As girls grow older, it’s even more important to empower them to live up to their potential. Some of the biggest returns on investment we see in our U.S. foreign assistance come from our work to ensure that women achieve their full potential. For every 10 percent rise in girls school attendance, a country’s GDP rises by 3 percent.

Girls' education strengthens economies, reduces inequality and creates more opportunities for everyone to succeed. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is our enemy here, too. Women, who face greater demands to cater to the basic needs of the family, are disproportionately being pulled out of the workforce. And the pandemic has only exacerbated the risks of gender-based violence and human trafficking that women already face. The United States strongly supports the UK’s efforts to emphasize the importance of preventing and responding to gender-based violence. This remains central to our humanitarian response efforts, as this type of violence tends to be more prevalent in times of crisis.

We also wish to underscore the importance of preventing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse in foreign aid. Few behaviors are as reprehensible as the abuse or exploitation of those in need by those who claim to serve.

Finally, when we talk about gender, we need to be sure that we are thinking beyond the male-female binary. We need to be inclusive and welcoming of all forms of gender expression, both in our language and in our programming. And we fust fight the targeted discrimination and criminalization of LGBTQI+ people, simply based on who they are and who they love, has sadly been amplified during the pandemic.

Unless we take specific action to address marginalized LGBTQI+ populations in our economic recovery and support programs, they will be left behind and subject to targeted violence.

Together, we can build on decades of experience in supporting girls’ education to ensure we don’t lose a generation of talent and potential. And we will continue to support women’s empowerment, to ensure that all our daughters—and truly all our children, no matter how they identify—can dream limitless dreams.

Last updated: November 10, 2022

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