WASHINGTON –First Lady Michelle Obama is taking her crusade to spend more money on education for young girls to the World Bank on Wednesday and likely will push the financial leaders to up their investment to target girls in developing countries.
“Sixty-two million girls worldwide — girls who are just as smart and hard-working as we are — aren’t getting the opportunities that we sometimes take for granted,” Obama said at Let Girls Learn event celebrating International Women’s Day last month.
In March 2015, the president and first lady launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S.-funded initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls worldwide to reach their full potential through education. When a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to earn a good living and improve the quality of her community, according to administration statements.
The IMF-World Bank spring meetings are Tuesday through Sunday. They will include bankers, government officials, researchers and financial industry leaders to discuss global economic issues, with gender equality and girls’ education featured.
“We have made impressive gains in achieving universal access to education, but what we’re failing to see is that girls who are poor — those who are the most vulnerable — are getting left behind,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in February. He’ll introduce Obama on Wednesday.
A World Bank study found that better opportunities for women can contribute to broader economic development in developing economies. Another study also found that every year of secondary school education correlated with an 18% increase in a girl’s future earning power.
Even if a girl gets more education, she also faces challenges when translating the education into opportunities in the workforce, he said.
Kim also noted that violence aimed at girls hurts their chance to get an education because they are afraid to go to schools.
“Girls worldwide need the opportunity to learn in a safe environment,” said Kristen Daly, spokeswoman of Tailored for Education, an organization that strives to increase school enrollment by providing children with school uniforms.
“By taking an interest in girl’s education on a global level, we enhance our own culture and create a world of thought leaders from all around the world,” said Daly. “An educated young woman encourages peace and diplomacy.”
In November 2014, the G-20 pledged to reduce the gap in women’s labor force participation by 25% by the year 2025.
At the global level, the employment-to-population ratio was 46% for women and almost 72% for men in 2015, and the gap has narrowed by only 0.6 percentage points since 1995, according to the International Labour Organization.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of International Monetary Fund, re-emphasized the mission to reduce that gap at the first W-20 Summit, which was a meeting of 20 female leaders from G-20 nations.
“If the promise of 2025 is to be met, those education gaps must be closed,” said Lagarde. “We need to work together—the G-20, the W-20, the IMF’s 188 member countries—to transform aspiration into reality.”