How’s this for a staggering statistic: 130 million girls in developing countries are not in school because in situations of poverty, girls are less likely than boys to receive an education, says ONE organization. In short, poverty is sexist. To shed light on this, ONE has launched #GirlsCount, a digital campaign to illustrate how pervasive this issue is and to demand education for all girls.
“Throughout the world, women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty,” ONE Campaign’s Stuart Hickox said to Global News. “When it comes to providing an education for their children, many families in sub-Saharan Africa will prioritize schooling for their sons because school fees are high. Yet girls’ education is probably the closest thing we have to a silver bullet to end poverty.”
Currently, the top three countries for girls out of school are South Sudan, Somalia and Liberia. In all three countries, girls who are three to six years above the school entrance age have never been to school.
“If every girl in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia completed high school, two-thirds fewer girls would be married as a child,” Hickox says. “Educating every girl in sub-Saharan Africa through secondary school would save nearly two million lives each year.”
ONE estimates that to educate a girl from primary through secondary school, it costs about $1.57 per day, less than the cost of a loaf of bread. And their education could add more than $100 billion a year to the global economy.
Through a bold and unique digital initiative, ONE is inviting people across the globe to film themselves counting a number between one and 130 million. Each short film will serve to represent a girl denied an education and together will make the world’s longest video.
So far, the initiative has garnered support from activists like Malala Yousafzai and Angelique Kidjo, as well as celebrities including Bono, Charlize Theron, Chelsea Handler and David Oyelowo, among others.
Anyone wishing to participate can go to the #GirlsCount site, pick a number, record themselves counting it in a video or photo, and upload it.
“I joined the count choosing number five because that’s the age millions of girls around the world should be walking into a classroom for the first time,” Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement. “Far too many of them will never get that chance, unless we demand world leaders to act.”
In addition, today thousands of ONE activists around the world will participate in a global “walk-in” to deliver hand-written letters and a Poverty is Sexist petition with 330,000 signatures (29,000 signatures from Canada) encouraging elected representatives to double their spending on international development to prioritize girls’ education.
In Canada, ONE members will be walking into 44 MP constituency offices across the country, including that of International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in Lennoxville, Finance Minister Bill Morneau in Toronto, and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna in Ottawa.