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What Works in Girls’ Education

A very good book by Gene B. Sperling, Rebecca Winthrop with Christina Kwauk sets out the evidence on What Works in Girls’ Education (free PDF download). This forward by Malala is the best introduction that you could have to the book and why you should read it.

My story is not of one girl but of many. It is the story of Malala from Pakistan. It is the story of the sisters I have met from Syria and Nigeria who have been de- nied an education or been targeted for going to school. It is the story of millions of sisters who I do not know by name, but who continue to struggle for what should rightfully be theirs—a safe, free, quality education that allows them to fulfil their dreams and transform the places in which they live.

Every girl, no matter where she lives, no matter what her circumstance, has a right to learn. Every leader, no matter who he or she is or the resources available to him or her, has a duty to fulfil and protect this right. Unfortunately, many leaders are not taking this responsibility seriously. They spend their money in other ways. They identify the problem as too large, or the solutions as unclear, or the girls who miss out as deserving less than their own sons and daughters.

Getting millions of girls into school in the next 15 years may seem impossible but it is not. The challenge is significant but the world does not lack the funds or the knowledge to achieve 12 years of free, safe, quality primary and secondary education for every girl – and every boy.

We have shown how the necessary funding can be found. This book now shows what works to support girls’ education and helps us understand why. It also makes it clear that the world cannot achieve a sustainable, peaceful, and pros- perous future without investing in girls’ education.

The world’s leaders have just opened the door on a new future by agreeing to a set of ambitious goals for our people and planet. But these will not be achieved without in- vestment in girls’ education. How can we all succeed when half of us are held back?

This is why this book is needed now. To help us meet the ambition set out in the new Sustainable Development Goals. To help us understand how we can overcome the barriers to girls’ education which have stood for too long without adequate understanding, challenge, or action to overcome them. To show the world’s leaders that girls’ education is not only the right thing, but the smart thing to do if we are to meet the new future they have opened to us.

This book shows clearly what girls and women themselves have known across generations: the world cannot afford to NOT educate its girls. Girls’ education is the key to our new and better future. The key to increased health, prosperity, and security. If the world’s leaders truly want to invest in this future then they must deliver on their promises and start investing in books, in education—in hope for girls who have too often been left behind.

Girls are desperate to learn and to lead. I have met many of my brave sisters who every day encounter incredible obstacles to education, including war, poverty, and even personal attacks. Yet their knowledge for learning is never overwhelmed and they continue to show up. It is time that our commitment, determination, and action mirrors and honors theirs. This book helps us understand how it can.

It helps us understand what we must do together to see the last girl forced to marry rather than go to school, to work rather than learn, to be denied an edu- cation because her family cannot afford it, or fear for her safety when she leaves for school. It helps us understand how girls who beat the odds and show up for school can receive the education they deserve, the education that will allow them to learn, grow and become leaders in their communities.

This book also reminds us that the world has set its ambition for education too low for too long and shows how we can help girls stay in school for longer. A quality basic education is a first and necessary step but if we are to truly see the power of girls to transform our world we must aim higher and secure a full course of primary and secondary education for every girl. As my father always believed for me and as I now believe for every girl, basic education begins to unlock girls’ potential but secondary education provides them with the wings to fly: to transform not only their lives but the lives of their families and their communities.

This book shows the world that it must do more for girls’ education if it is to secure the future it wants. It also shows how this can be done from primary through secondary school. But the reason I welcome this book above all else is because it shows us that any efforts to get all girls into school will not work unless they address the violence and conflict that can stop girls from learning.

This summer, as I said “goodbye” to my life as a child on my 18th birthday, I stood with girls who had been forced to leave their country and flee to Lebanon, girls who had been forced to leave not just their homes but their schools. But they refused to leave their education. To them the right to an education was just as basic as the right to food or water. Yet the world is failing them by failing to protect this right.

If we are to see our world transformed by educated and empowered girls then we have to end violence against girls whose only crime is wanting an education—not just the violence of conflict but the violence of forced marriage, of child labor, of targeted attacks, of assault or abduction in the classroom. This book helps us understand how we can do so.

I am proud that the Malala Fund is a partner with the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution and with Gene Sperling, its founder, and Rebecca Winthrop, its current director, who are authoring this book. The future of girls globally depends on all of us working together, across cultures and our differences, joining together in this common cause. I’m grateful for their hard work, which they have undertaken for decades.

It is my hope that the evidence this book presents encourages our leaders to match the courage, determination and ambition of girls who struggle daily to realize their right to an education. The challenge is significant but the knowledge and funding are available to meet it. All that is needed is the action. I believe that we can and will educate every girl. I hope that you will join us.

Malala Yousafzai
Student, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Co-Founder of the Malala Fund