During the 2019 continental conference on girl’s education, Aminah J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), addressed the gathering of traditional and religious leaders, women and youth.
She stated that “Education is central to addressing some of the most complex challenges we face, from health, poverty and inequality to climate change and conflict. Girls’ education has a significant impact on their life chances, family wealth, and the development of their communities and societies”.
Educating girls goes far beyond getting them through the classroom door. It is about transforming societies to support young women and unleash their full potential, for everyone’s benefit.
The transformation starts by looking at the quality of girls’ education and making sure it equips them with the right skills for the next stage of their lives. We need to make sure girls have full and equal access to opportunities and confidence in their abilities.
Supporting girls and keeping them safe in all areas of their lives is essential if they are to reap the benefits of education. Traditional and religious leaders can make this important contribution and ensure it happens in each of your communities and beyond because better-educated girls and women are healthier, their children are healthier, earn higher incomes, and contribute in turn to better healthcare of their families and education for their children.
Women with secondary school education earn almost twice as much as those with no education at all. They make better health care decisions for themselves and their families. They are more likely to engage in the labour force and contribute to their communities.
Traditional leaders as critical cultural gatekeepers can drive social and political transformation in our communities. The fact that traditional and religious leaders are taking the lead in finding solutions from within the richly diverse cultures and values of Africa that help us understand how to best ensure all girls in Africa complete secondary education and develop life and livelihood skills.
This initiative, believing when fully implemented, will no doubt leapfrog improvement in maternal and child health as well family and community wellbeing in the continent.