The World Bank will set aside $2.5bn over the next five years for projects aimed at helping adolescent girls in the developing world go to school, in an attempt to reduce the ranks of the 62m girls around the world without access to education.
The announcement, made by US first lady Michelle Obama yesterday, is aimed at what development experts argue is one of the most effective ways of boosting long-term global economic development.
One World Bank study found that for every year of education a girl in the developing world received, her life-long income rose 18 per cent — with a vast impact on economic growth.
Mrs Obama said in a statement: “The evidence is very clear: when we invest in girls’ education and we embrace women in our workforce that doesn’t just benefit them, it benefits all of us.”
Last year she launched an initiative called Let Girls Learn, which is aimed at helping adolescent girls secure an education.
The World Bank money is mainly earmarked for projects in Africa and South Asia and includes everything from scholarships to building separate toilets for girls at schools.
Tina Tchen, Mrs Obama’s chief of staff and the executive director of the presidential administration’s Council on Women and Girls, said the goal was also to highlight the issue for other governments and to draw new financing commitments from the public and private sector.
She said: “What the $2.5bn represents is part of a call to action for many more people to get involved, because to really address this issue it isn’t just the World Bank that is going to solve it. It isn’t just the US government who is going to solve it.”
The new funding is far from the World Bank’s first foray into girls’ education. Between 1994 and 2008 it operated a programme in Bangladesh that resulted in girls overtaking boys as the majority population in the country’s schools. In India, a $500m national project has helped enrol 4.3m more girls in secondary schools since 2012 and also helped reach gender parity. The bank has also had similar results with programmes in Nigeria and Yemen.
Mrs Obama has made the Let Girls Learn initiative a priority for her remaining time in the White House and vowed to continue the work after her husband leaves office. In an email interview with the Financial Times last year she called girls’ education a “moral issue” and said she would focus on it “for the rest of my life”.
She told the FT: “Each of these girls has the spark of something extraordinary in them. And I see myself in these girls — I see my daughters in these girls — and I just cannot walk away from them. So for me, this is personal.”
去年，她发起了一项名为“让女孩学习”(Let Girls Learn)的举措，旨在帮助青春期少女接受教育。
米歇尔的幕僚长、白宫妇女和女孩事务委员会(Council on Women and Girls)执行主任陈远美(Tina Tchen)表示，目标还包括向其他国家的政府强调这个问题，并吸引来自公共和私人部门的新的资金承诺。