This week, leaders from around the world will convene in New York at the United Nations to launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious plan to end poverty that includes 17 goals from eliminating hunger to building more sustainable cities to providing a quality education for every child.
One of the best investments to achieve the wide variety of development outcomes demanded by these goals is providing high-quality education to every child in the world. In particular, ensuring girls enroll and stay in school all the way through secondary levels, has high returns across a number of different areas, including saving children’s lives, reducing child marriage, improving economic growth, leading to smaller and more sustainable families, and making them more resilient to the effects of natural disasters. And yet there are still millions of girls around the world who cannot access school, who are not safe when they are there, or whose schooling is of such poor quality they aren’t learning the skills they need to thrive.
Very quickly the SDGs will need to move from being a point of discussion among global leaders in the halls of the United Nations into programs of action within all countries in the world. To accelerate and sustain progress in education, and especially girls’ education, it is necessary to have strong networks of local girls’ education advocates, thought leaders, and social entrepreneurs. More than ever before, the girls who are left behind face multiple barriers to getting into school and receiving a quality education. Finding sustainable solutions to overcoming these barriers will need to draw upon global good practice but will ultimately need to be developed, adapted, and owned locally in communities across the developing world. For example, we know that violence in many forms limits girls’ ability to get an education, but solutions to overcome violence will look very different in South African townships than they will in Pakistan’s rural villages.
This is why ensuring that developing country girls’ education advocates are at the forefront of this work is so important. Ten such leaders, whom we have had the great pleasure of working with through Brookings’s Echidna Global Scholars program, are showcased below. They have all worked toward improving girls’ education in their countries across three important dimensions: getting and keeping girls in school, improving the quality of girls’ learning opportunities, and empowering girls to lead. You can get involved—read up on the work these leaders are doing or reach out to connect with them personally to learn more.