July 5, 2019
Good afternoon. Bonjour. Assalam-u-alikum.
Thank you, Frances, for the introduction and for your work to support girls in Nigeria.
Minister Le Drian, Minister Blanquer, Madame Azoulay, Honourable Ministers, UNESCO, distinguished guests and Excellencies.
Thank you so much for the warm welcome to this country and thank you for prioritising a discussion on education.
This is my first time visiting UNESCO in France — a beautiful city that I look forward to exploring. I have studied the French Revolution in my A-level exams and I am completely mesmerised by looking at the buildings and the historical places here. Though this is my first time visiting France, this is not my first time speaking in a room like this asking leaders like you to help 130 million out-of-school girls access education.
I was 11 years old the first time I spoke about why girls should go to school. The Taliban had entered Swat Valley. They took away peace from our people and banned girls' education. So, I fought for my rights and the rights of girls in my hometown, in every way I could.
I was 17 years old when I won the Nobel Peace Prize. I asked girls from several countries to join me in Oslo — girls who, like me and millions of others, had been denied their education. Together, we called on people everywhere to pay attention to the challenges girls face and to join our fight for education.
No matter the opportunity — a media interview, a business meeting or standing at a podium addressing world leaders — my message remains the same: invest in girls’ education.
Educating girls is the single best investment leaders can make in our world’s future. I will say this again and again until every girl is in school.
Because with passion and persistence, women and girls are fighting for progress with whatever tools they have.
Girls are engaging in activism online. Some are starting organisations — to teach peers to code, to distribute menstrual products to those in need, to develop solutions to climate change.
Female filmmakers are challenging social norms and telling stories from new perspectives. Reporters are exposing abuse and educating audiences about laws that disproportionately harm women. Software developers are creating apps focused on women’s health. Companies are hiring more women and starting to invest in leadership initiatives for girls.
Whether you’re an executive who can help create a workplace that values equality or a mother who can intervene in her daughter’s forced marriage, we each have a role to play in creating a more equal world.
Now at 21 years old, I want to support girls and other education activists, like Frances, and create opportunities for them to speak out about their work.
I want to deliver the message from young education activists to you — the people responsible for making decisions about our collective future.
So, to the leaders here today representing G7 countries, I urge you to remember this:
Girls have the power to boost economies, create jobs, make communities safer and drive industry. But almost one billion girls and young women lack the education and skills they need to succeed in the rapidly changing world that we live in.
If educated, girls could fill workforce gaps and add up to $30 trillion to the global economy. But to see these benefits, we need you to reverse the current decline in funding for education.
We need you to help guarantee 12 years of education for every girl, in every community, in every country in the world.
Right now, there is not enough getting done. Just 10% of your aid goes to countries where girls face the biggest challenges. This week and at the upcoming G7 Summit, I’m asking leaders to commit new money to education for girls, particularly in the Sahel region.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 75% of girls start school — but only 8% will finish their secondary education. The rest of them, the vast majority, will be forced to set aside their aspirations and face early child marriage or a lifetime of insecure work.
And yet those girls still believe that leaders like you have the power to help them.
Because you do. You have the power to determine budgets and change the lives of millions of girls. You have a role to play in achieving equality.
I hope you will join in doing your part and invest in girls’ education.
Merci. Thank you.