By: Grace Wong, UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow
Girls’ education has many benefits; by addressing both Global Goals 4 and 5, we further increase the resilience and sustainability of communities. Studies show that a woman will reinvest as much as 90% of her income, and contribute to building sustainable, strong communities (goal 11). Furthermore, a single year of secondary education can increase her wages by 20% and in case study countries like Pakistan, a literate woman can earn 95% more than an illiterate woman, which contributes to Goal 1’s fight against global poverty. Educated women wait longer to have children and have fewer children; most developed countries have large populations of educated women and an average birth rate of two. However, giving a girl an education is not as simple as it sounds; girls are undervalued globally, and despite the best interests of the international community, social pressures and customs often prevent a girl from receiving the education she deserves. This is not news.
At the +SocialGood Summit in New York this weekend, girl advocates from the Malala Fund and RiseUp, women leaders, and accomplished, inspiring women like Helen Clark and Samantha Power appeared before audiences reinforcing the importance of valuing women. Helen Clark defended her aspirations towards for the next Secretary General with poise and confidence, and Memory Banda from Rise Up emphasized her active role in helping communities across Malawi. Yet for global development to occur and mitigate global hunger, and to give girls access to equal opportunities and education, we also must build global partnerships between communities.
The question of culture and international development is thorny and complex, but we must start discussing ways to navigate that successfully to achieve our goals by 2030. The story of Malala is heartwarming and incredible, and as she advocates for girls’ education globally, she speaks for other girls in the Swaat Valley, where an education for a girl is still difficult. As global community members, we must respect the views and opinions of other cultures, whether that involves eating certain foods or celebrating certain holidays. But when our Global Goals clash with cultural norms we must ask: to what extent do we impose our hopes for development? We must find a way to do that respectfully. As we continue our discussions of global development and goal 17, which involves fostering global partnerships, we must continue to build partnerships across the public and private sector as well as local governments.