ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif Statement on International Day of the Girl Child
11 October 2023, New York – Girls are the future. They are agents of positive change and potential in a world torn apart by conflicts and chaos. On this International Day of the Girl Child, Education Cannot Wait joins girls, women and people everywhere in calling for an end to the oppression of girls, an end to gender-based violence and sexual abuse, an end to child marriage, an end to unpaid work and an end to any form of subjugation. Our voices will not be silenced.
We must #EmpowerHer! With her power, we bring hope where there is fear, and strength where there is despair. Real empowerment starts with early childhood education and onwards through a pathway of a quality education. Education is foundational to ensuring the equal and inalienable rights of girls everywhere. With education, the girls of today will become tomorrow’s leaders. With education, girls will find sanctity and security in their homes and in their communities. With education, girls will bring us through the current trajectory of war, injustice, climate disasters, forced displacement and extreme poverty – lifting up their families, their communities and their nations, resulting in a more equal and humane world.
However, there are some terrifying, unacceptable statistics that tell a story of a world that has turned its back on girls and women. At the current rate, it will take 300 years to end child marriage, 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, and 140 years to achieve equal representation in leadership in the workplace, according to the United Nations. Today, one in five young women will be married before their 18th birthday.
Worldwide, 129 million girls are out of school, according to UNICEF, and less than half of countries have achieved parity in primary education. And, according to ECW's Gender Implementation Guide, not only are girls’ learning outcomes behind those of boys in crisis-affected communities, but based on current trends, girls will not reach 100% lower secondary completion in crisis-affected countries until at least 2063.
On the frontlines of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, the situation is even worse. In Afghanistan today, 80% of Afghan girls are out of school – that’s 2.5 million girls denied their rights, denied their dignity, denied their humanity. In Niger, three out of four girls will be married before they are 18. And worldwide, as many as 150 million girls are raped or subject to sexual violence each year.
With an education, an educated girl, an educated woman, an educated sister, mother and wife contribute to transform the world. And it is urgently needed. We need a new world order based on equal rights and equal opportunity for all, without discrimination. Since its operationalization in 2017, Education Cannot Wait, as a vocal, global advocate for girls’ rights, has reached more than 4 million girls across 44 crisis-affected countries with the safety, hope and opportunity of quality, holistic education.
Together, we can and must do more. ECW calls on public and private sector donors worldwide to provide a total of US$1.5 billion in funding against our 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, which will reach 20 million children, of whom 60% are girls.
For proud and promising girls like Bisharo in Somalia, we are building safe learning spaces; for refugee girls like Josveglys in Colombia, we are overcoming mountains to ensure the continuity and quality of education; and, for girls like Bchiote, who have lived through hunger and fear on their journeys from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Uganda and on to Ethiopia, we are helping reignite dreams, reunite families, and reimagine our global promise of gender equality and empowerment. Through quality education, we can change the world by #EmpoweringHer.