The G7 Summit is an annual event where the leaders of seven nations with advanced economies – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy – come together to discuss global issues. The discussions lead to decisions that each member nation must agree on, and those decisions inform policies and strategies enacted by each country.
This year, the G7 Summit will be held on June 8 and 9, 2018 in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. What’s more, PM Trudeau has made women’s and girls’ empowerment a central theme of its G7 Presidency this year. As Prime Minister Trudeau noted in a recent statement, investing in girls’ education, especially in crisis situations, is a vital part of making empowerment a reality. In fact, we expect that the Development Ministers Meeting will focus on girls’ and women’s access to education in crisis and conflict situations, within the overall objective of eliminating barriers for girls and providing the opportunity for 12 years of quality education for all.
In his formal address on May 28, at a meeting in Ottawa with civil society organizations/NGOs working on the G7, Prime Minister Trudeau said:
“I’m proud that one of the primary initiatives we hope to achieve at this year’s G7 is a meaningful commitment to and investment in girls’ education, especially in crises and conflict-affected states. We’ve heard from so many of you about how important it is that girls have access to twelve years of free, safe, quality, gender-responsive education. Working with civil society partners and other G7 countries, we hope that investing in education will be one of the legacies of this year’s G7.”
What’s at stake
This is an incredibly important goal. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), approximately 130 million girls are not in school. While two-thirds of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education, only 40 percent have achieved gender parity in secondary education. Girls in the developing world face unique barriers to education caused by poverty, harmful social and cultural norms including misconceptions around the value of their education, disparities in access to safe and quality education, and high rates of gender-based violence.
The challenges are especially severe for children caught in crises and conflicts. At present, 75 million children and youth are out of school in 35 conflict-affected countries. In these vulnerable contexts, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys, putting girls at heightened risk of child labor, trafficking, early and forced marriage, early pregnancy, and gender-based violence.
Education in times of crises is a lifesaving humanitarian response. It protects all children from violence, exploitation, and abuse; protects girls in particular from early marriage; and can be a critical forum for delivering important health, nutrition, and psychosocial services. For out-of-school girls, education is the centerpiece for both empowerment and protection, setting them on a course to better futures.
We’re hoping for a big outcome this week at the G7. We welcome the Whistler Declaration on Unlocking the Power of Adolescent Girls issued by G7 Development Ministers on June 2, and look forward to a G7 Leaders’ Declaration that recognizes the importance of quality education for all children and youth, especially those affected by conflicts and crises, with a focus on girls. These children have a right to an education and deserve every chance to reach their full potential.
In the meantime, there’s a way for YOU to take action. Write or call your elected official today about the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act, which supports access to education for displaced children, including those who are most vulnerable.
Photo: 12-year-old Triscent Habanyama of Hagwanyama village in Zambia dreams of becoming a nurse when she completes school. ©2018 World Vision/photo by Agatha Mali