Investing in girls is the single most powerful investment for development. Girls’ education fights poverty, inequality, and discrimination. With the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fast approaching, the Secretary-General and his MDG Advocacy Group hosted a luncheon event on how to accelerate progress on the MDGs focusing on girls as a critical investment.
“We are in a race against time. The MDG deadline is just over 700 days away,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he addressed business representatives, civil society, the media, academia, governments and intergovernmental organizations who had gathered for this luncheon event on the theme of “Scaling Up Success: Investing in Girls’ Empowerment for MDG Acceleration”.
Taking place at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 23 January, the event was arranged by UN DESA, the UN Foundation and UNICEF with an aim to scale up promising initiatives for girls in the global economy and to highlight the need to invest in the rights, health, and well-being of adolescent girls to accelerate progress on the MDGs.
“We have to take stock and make a final push for success. And this demands that we invest in the more than half a billion adolescent girls in developing countries who can help drive progress across the MDG agenda,” the Secretary-General said, underscoring the immense potentials added when society invests in girls.
“Every year that a girl stays in primary school boosts her eventual wages by up to 20 per cent. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest the vast majority – 90 per cent – back into their families. When female education goes up, so does economic growth,” he added.
Along with the Secretary-General, the event also featured participation by his MDG Advocacy Group, including Co-Chairs President Paul Kagame and Prime Minister Erna Solberg. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson; UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown; and Unilever CEO Paul Polman were also among the speakers delivering remarks.
Hannah Godefa, a 16-year old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia and Sumaya Saluja, a member of the Global Education First Initiative’s Youth Advocacy Group, also took the floor to lead an inter-generational dialogue where they channelled questions from girls from across the world, for the MDG Advocates Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Mr. Philippe Douste-Blazy, Ambassador Dho Young-shim and Professor Jeffrey Sachs to answer.
The event provided an opportunity for dialogue and also to shed light on specific approaches that enable girls and women worldwide to learn, earn, thrive, and control their own destinies. It also offered a platform to engage with governments, civil society as well as the private sector, discussing engagement mechanisms, plans and interventions that will help accelerate progress on the MDGs on this last stretch of 707 days.
As he concluded his remarks at the event, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Now I need your ideas. Tell me how I can help you support the world’s girls. Let us make their future our focus – and they will make a difference in our world.”