As South Africa celebrates women’s month: ONE is partnering with Investec, a leading international specialist banking and asset management group, to add its voice to ONE’s Poverty is Sexists campaign. The global campaign anchored on the #girlscount seeks to deliver the longest video in history by physically counting every one of the 130 million girls that are out of school worldwide. Global icons such as ONE co-founder Bono; Malala Yousafzai; Laura Bush and; Christine Lagarde have thrown their support behind the campaign by posting videos uploaded onto the #girlscount website.
Investec has identified education as a key focus area in of its Corporate Social Investment, in a quest to create a meaningful legacy for in the communities within which Investec operates. For this reason, Investec’s more than 3000 staff were given the opportunity to participate in the global campaign and add South Africa’s voice to the global campaign for girls education.
Women’s month reminds us that 55 million girls in Africa, of the global 130 million count are out of school. The continent and indeed South Africa cannot continue to ignore the plight of young girls in the broader gender contest.
The realisation that the employment of well-educated individuals is vital to business success and education is equally important for the long-term economic growth prospects of our country. Investing in education is a foundation for economic prosperity, improved stability, peace, security and health outcomes. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to drive economic development, improve skills and opportunities for young women and men, and unlock progress on Agenda 2063 aspirations and all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Delivering high-quality education to children and young people in Africa and all over the world calls for the mobilization of many voices to keep urging our leaders to get girls into school. Public education systems across many African countries are under considerable financial pressure, particularly considering the large and growing proportion of youth of school going age.
Of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six has a steady paid job. The inability to invest in Africa’s youth is behind most of the violent protests including the fees must fall protests in 2016 and 2017.
If African leaders invest with ambition, urgency and efficiency, the African continent stands to add $15 trillion to its economy over the next 30 years –but these gains are largely dependent on governments making targeted and accurate investments. Turning the increase in Africa’s population into concrete benefits will require appropriate policies and investments in education, employment and empowerment (three Es), particularly for women and youth. Prioritising these ‘three Es’ is particularly important for women and girls, who face additional barriers to completing their education, entering and advancing within the workforce, and achieving overall empowerment, because of their gender.
We know that the fight against extreme poverty is tied to the fight for gender equality and empowerment especially in Africa. Women are worse affected by poverty globally and they suffer more from the effects of extreme poverty. This situation needs to change— and not only because it is a source of endemic, global injustice but put simply, poverty is sexist.
Greater investment in health and education could ease and dismantle barriers that prevent so many of them from living healthy and productive lives. If our leaders can take these steps, not only women will benefit but all members of society, that’s the ultimate goal.