There is a Thomas Edison quote I scrawled in crayon and stuck on my mirror as a teenager. It carried me through the days when my bag was weighed down with textbooks and my hair full of spitballs.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
I lamented my education (like many do), taking it for granted. Somehow Edison’s perseverance lessened the blow.
Now as a grown up, I am committed to giving everyone access to the very education I so freely disregarded. At work with Girl Rising, Edison’s words resonates still.
The fight for girls' education can feel… well, like a fight (and not a fair one). 62 million girls around the world who should be in school, are not. There are daughters sold into marriages before they’re even old enough to know what that means. Some can’t make it through war zones to get to classrooms; others are overcome with poverty – too hungry to bother with homework. It is grim to imagine. Lately, the problem has gone from tragic to infuriating as more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school at gunpoint, and this week there is news again of more attacks still.
You’ve seen the images on your screens no doubt; you couldn’t ignore it if you wanted to.
Around the world, people everywhere have kicked and screamed and cried. We have hashtagged and prayed and protested in outrage. As weeks and months trundle on, the situation for girls in the developing world can, at a glance, seem more futile than ever.
What makes this fight all the more frustrating, is the unquestionable logic behind the value of educating girls. An educated girl is healthier, wealthier, and better able to contribute to her local community. She is 3 times less likely to contract HIV / AIDS, and a girl child with an extra year of education earns 20% more when she grows up. She gets married later, has fewer and more literate children. But it’s not even all about her. If India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school it’s GDP would rise by 5.5 Billion US dollars.
It’s is a logical solution to countless global problems and now is not the time for despair. The world is starting to take notice.
This week in Belgium more than 600 of the world’s leading experts and policy makers on global education and development (including more than 40 government ministers from across the world) met for the Global Partnership for Education’s Second Replenishment Pledging Conference.
Donor nations, developing countries and other major global development actors unveiled their funding plans for some of the world’s poorest countries. Just today 80 pledges were made, bringing US$29 Billion in new commitments to education.The conference is only the beginning of a four-year replenishment period (through to 2018) for the Global Partnership for Education.
For those of us outside the education industry, Let Girls Learn is a new effort by the United States Government. Led by USAID and big names like Girl Rising narrators Anne Hathaway and Alicia Keys, #LetGirlsLearn provides the public with meaningful ways to help get girls into school. In support of the effort, USAID has also announced over 230 million US dollars for new programs to support education around the world.
Action is happening.
We are right to be angry. To kick and scream, to demand justice. But we should also spare a moment for the wonder that is about to be upon us. Tapping 62 million minds will bring about a generation of innovators well-equipped with imagination and courage. 62 million is roughly the population of Great Britain. Or the total combined sum of every Scandinavian nation, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Singapore, and it’s happening right now.
One person alone invented the lightbulb, the sound recorder, the video camera and a system for distributing electricity that changed the world forever.
Just imagine what 62 million will do.
It’s like my old friend Edison said, “if we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
Lindsay Morris is the face behind Girl Rising’s global communications. When she isn’t tweeting up a storm, you can find her managing influencer relationships and heading up The Official Girl Rising Fun Committee. She grew up in Australia and now works out of Girl Rising’s New York Office.