Last week, the No Ceilings team hosted its first Google Hangout with Chelsea Clinton, Rebecca Winthrop, Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, and Kennedy Odede, Founder of Shining Hope for Communities. During the Google Hangout, which focused on girls’ education, Chelsea, Rebecca, and Kennedy engaged with a global online audience and answered several questions ranging from why water is an important factor for girls’ education to how social media can play a role in raising attention about issues girls still face in trying to get an education.
Check out some highlights from the conversation below.
Chelsea opened by highlighting that while women still comprise of a majority of the world’s unhealthy, unfed, and unpaid, studies have shown that educating girls leads to better health and economic outcomes.
Around the world, girls who have one more year of education than the national average earn 10% to 20% more – more than the increase for boys. In particular, girls with a secondary education have an 18% return in future wages, against 14% for boys. According to a World Bank study, investing in girls’ education and opportunities could boost a country’s entire gross domestic product by 1.2% in a single year. Women with more education have less of a chance of dying during pregnancy and childbirth, have fewer children, have better child outcomes, are more likely to vaccinate their children, and be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS.
One Google Hangout viewer asked: “How can we inform illiterate parents of the importance of education to girls?” Chelsea, Rebecca, and Kennedy all recognized the importance and relevance of this challenge.
“There is absolutely a way to reach parents that haven’t had a chance to be educated themselves,” Rebecca said. Rebecca discussed how valuable children who know how to read become to their parents and their community, and how she’s seen this happen in community after community. When children are able to help their parents achieve basic tasks such as reading medicine bottles, reading road signs, and even work on government documents, these parents become huge advocates of education. “Being illiterate is so difficult, it closes your world,” Rebecca said. “When these young kids can actually learn to read and write, parents are incredibly supportive.”
Kennedy continued by discussing the importance of moving the conversation from the rhetorical to the practical. “Everyone wants better for their kids,” Kennedy said. He further explained that many parents believe that the key to a better life for their sons is an education, while the path for their daughters is marriage. By showing how an education can help sons and daughters have a better life in a practical way – either by living in a better home or buying more cows – parents can begin to understand the value an education has for their daughters.
Kennedy noted that it’s important to explain to illiterate parents that an education not only opens opportunities for their daughter, but for their family and community as well. “By giving education to a girl, you’re also giving to the community,” Kennedy concluded. “It’s a big investment.”
Hashtag Activism: Does It Matter?
Chelsea reflected on the tragic kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria – an event that triggered global outrage and launched the online movement #BringBackOurGirls. Chelsea asked Kennedy and Rebecca for their thoughts on the trend of “hashtag activism” movements such as #BringBackOurGirls.
All participants agreed that there are two big benefits of hashtag activism:
1) Hashtag activism encourages governments to be accountable to their people.
“The world is becoming a global village,” said Kennedy. “Something happening in Nigeria can become an issue in the White House.”
The Internet has made the world a smaller place, and events that happen in one country can spread across the globe. The international attention created through the popularity of #BringBackOurGirls put pressure on the Nigerian government and other governments to act.
2) Hashtag activism involves young people in new issues.
Social media is very popular with young people, and seeing a hashtag associated with an issue is a way to draw attention to a cause they might not otherwise know about. Rebecca stressed how important it is to ensure that information about these issues reaches young people because movements thrive when young people are involved and invested.
“If we don’t bring young people into this movement – for global education, for human rights, for women’s rights, for girls’ rights – we’re not going to sustain the movement over time,” Rebecca said.
Chelsea also addressed the issue of sustaining interest after the hashtag movement fades. She spoke about the need for real solutions to the multiple challenges in girls’ education and of the importance of engaging and sustaining community involvement beyond the life of the hashtag itself.
“It’s about ensuring that the same community that galvanized around #BringBackOurGirls can be galvanized if something like this happens again,” Chelsea said.
Watch the full #NoCeilings Google Hangout: