Leaders call for more investment in education to empower women

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Orit Gadiesh, Chairman, Bain & Company, UK, Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, Malala Yousafzai, girls’ education activist and co-founder, Malala Fund, UK during the session "Creating a Shared Future through Education and Empowerment" at the World Economic Forum in Davos. — WEF photo

DAVOS — Canada is doubling its contribution to the Global Partnership for Education to $180 million a year, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, told participants at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

Trudeau said that for any society to prosper, everyone has to be given the chance to succeed and to realize their dreams. Education is central to providing that chance.

The Global Partnership for Education is an international organization focused on getting all children into school for a quality education in the world’s poorest countries.

Emphasizing the particular importance of educating girls and women, Trudeau said: “Educate and empower women and the debate changes, the concerns change and the type of decisions made change — all for the better.” He added that Canada has adopted a “global feminist development policy”, with all initiatives looked at “through a gender lens”. This was “the most effective way of making a lasting difference in the world,” he said.

Trudeau also strongly backs an educational focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), saying a thorough understanding of science method and skills such as coding will help people adapt to the rapidly changing nature of work. “Even symphonic composers and filmmakers will need to be powerful users of technology,” he said.

He called on men to be protagonists in the empowerment of women: “Men must have the courage to be feminists and the integrity to be allies.”

Sharing the platform with Trudeau was Malala Yousafzai, girls’ education activist and co-founder of the Malala Fund in the United Kingdom. She urged the world’s business sector to contribute far higher levels of funding to girls’ education than they do at present.

“With investment in women, the returns are very high and the opportunity costs very low,” she said. “Educated, skilled women lift economic growth, help reduce poverty, change perceptions and eradicate evils like child labor. But we must make a first step and start funding for learning.”

Fabiola Gianotti, director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), said she is a proponent of a diverse education to form well-rounded citizens. “As a scientist, I would say that my early studies in the humanities have contributed as much to me as a person as physics has,” she added.

The world is wasting vast human potential by failing to properly educate young people, said Orit Gadiesh, chairman of Bain & Company. She added that a basic education is no longer sufficient to last a person a lifetime. “We need to inspire people to continue to seek out new knowledge, to learn new jobs — jobs that don’t exist today. Young people need to believe that they can continue learning.” — SG/WEF


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