Today, No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project joins the global community to commemorate International Day of The Girl, celebrate the potential and power of girls, and raise awareness of the specific challenges they face to reaching full participation.
Secretary Clinton said recently, when girls are empowered to participate fully in society, especially in their education, “cycles of poverty are broken, economies grow, glass ceilings crack and potential is unleashed.” Even with substantial development in unleashing that potential, insidious and widespread violence continues to limit the ability of young girls to participate in their lives, seek new opportunities, and engage with their communities.
Across the world, almost one quarter of girls aged 15 to 19 report being victims of some form of physical violence, an alarming number of whom experience that abuse in the simple pursuit of their education. The threat of violence in and around school is so potent and pervasive that according to UNICEF, an estimated 246 million children globally suffer from school-related violence each year, including verbal bullying, sexual abuse and harassment, and violent attacks in regions of armed conflict.
The long-term effects of this violence are devastating. Recent studies tell us that victims of abuse are more likely to get lower grades, drop out of school, and miss out on critical opportunities for employment. All of which diminish opportunities and stifle growth for these young women, their families, and their communities.
Yet for those who are supported and encouraged to pursue it, education is one of the strongest tools for empowering young girls and for breaking persistent cycles of violence.
Equipping girls with education and skills training may help protect them and future generations from abuse. Recent studies by UNESCO found that countries prioritizing investments in girls’ education, and their safe enrollment, also had consistently lower rates of violence against women overall. Girls who are educated are much more likely and able to advocate for their health and safety as well as the health of their families.
When we make investments in girls’ safe education, we’re making investments in the health, prosperity, and stability of those around them. That’s why No Ceilings recently announced CHARGE – the Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education – a $600 million commitment with the Brookings Institution that brings together 30 cross-sector partners to ensure that more than 14 million girls are empowered and supported to pursue a safe education.
When girls are free from violence and fully participating in their education the benefits are boundless. Yesterday, Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai – herself a survivor of violence and a partner in the CHARGE commitment with the Malala Fund – were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their leadership, bravery and determination in fighting against “the suppression of children and young people” and “advocating for the right of all children to education.”
This courageous duo is helping to light the way forward to universal and safe education for all young children. We must take a stand with them, and help raise the global ambition for our shared future. Reaching this goal is essential and it will take the entire international community working together to raise awareness, create solutions, and tap into the unlimited potential of young women and girls.