Trailblazers from Business, Entertainment, Media and Activism Unite to Launch a Global Campaign to Demand Education for All Girls

130 Million Girls Globally are Denied an Education – More than the Population of Germany

Open Letter to World LeadersLaunched as part of ONE’s Poverty is Sexist Campaign

JOHANNESBURG –An alliance of trailblazers from business, entertainment, media and activism have joined forces to demand urgent action by world leaders to get the 130 million girls around the world who are denied the chance to go to school the education they deserve.


The group – which includes Africa’s business giant Aliko Dangote, actors and activists Desmond Elliot, Danai Gurira and Charlize Theron, gender rights activists Sally Dura, Oby Ezekwesili and Amina Mohammed musicians, HHP, Banky W, Angelique Kidjo as well Nobel Peace Prize winning activist Leymah Gbowee– has signed on to an open letter demanding world leaders take urgent action to address the girls education crisis in 2017.

The open letter was organized by the ONE Campaign as part of its Poverty is Sexist initiative and says in part:

“We are coming together and uniting across our divides to get every girl into school and to make sure she gets a quality education once she’s there. But we need you to do the same.”

See the full text of the letter below.

In addition to signing on to the letter, ONE is asking people around the world to take part in a mass lobby moment on International Women’s Day (March 8) where activists from around the world will “walk into” their elected officials’ offices to lobby them on behalf of every girl denied an education.

ONE’s Africa (interim) Executive Director Nachilala Nkombo said, “A good education transforms a girl’s life chances, but because poverty is sexist, too many girls are denied this basic right to learn. If a girl is in secondary school, she is six times less likely to be married early than a girl with little or no education. A girl with an education is less likely to give birth young and more likely to make her own choices about when and how many children to have. Girls education is a justice issue and cannot be deferred any longer.”

ONE’s (interim) Global Policy Director David McNair said: “Education is crucial to empowerment, and data shows that when women are empowered, they come up with the smartest solutions and lift everyone out of poverty more quickly. So, if we can solve the education problem, we solve many other problems by extension.”

Analysis collected by ONE shows the powerful effect of investing in girls’ education:

  • If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty.
  • An additional year of schooling is estimated to result in an average 11.7% increase in a woman’s wages.
  • Child marriages would fall by almost two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if all girls had a secondary education.
  • 10% fewer girls globally would become pregnant if all girls had primary education, and 59% fewer would become pregnant if all girls had a secondary education.
  • If all women completed primary education the number of mothers dying in childbirth would reduce by two-thirds.

Nkombo added: “Educating girls benefits everyone, but the fact that 130 million girls are out of school and that in some places it is too dangerous for girls to go to school means we are denying ourselves the best chance of progress.

“People who want to help change the lives of millions of girls around the world can join the campaign by adding their own names to the open letter at one.org/letter.”

Notes to Editors:

For media enquiries, please contact Yannick Tshimanga on +27 (0)636981093 Nicole Johnston +27 (0)63 698 1091.

Some of the signatories – full names are listed below – are available for interview to discuss the campaign, which forms part of ONE’s Poverty is Sexist initiative to help girls and women who suffer the most from extreme poverty to prosper.

Full letter text:

A Letter to Leaders,

You couldn’t be where you are today without a good education.

But because poverty is sexist, 130 million girls across the world are denied this basic right. Indeed, if the number of girls out of school formed a country, it would be the tenth largest on the planet – bigger than Japan or Germany.

All children deserve a good education, but in the poorest countries girls are denied it more often than boys. Education is vital for moving out of poverty.  Every additional year of school that a girl completes increases her future earnings, which is good for her family, her community and her country.

We cannot afford to squander the potential of 130 million girls to cure diseases or end wars, invent brilliant technology or revolutionize an industry… or simply to access opportunity.

We are coming together and uniting across our divides to get every girl into school and to make sure she gets a quality education once she’s there.

But we need you to do the same.

Your education helped you to get where you are today – and it is in your power to help millions of girls to get theirs. Please act now, with the right policies and the necessary funds.

Show us that politics can work for the people – starting with the people who need it most.

The list of high-profile signers so far is:

Afrikan Boy – Grime Artist

Angelique Kidjo – Grammy award-winning artist and activist

Asa – Singer

Banky W – Singer

Bono – Lead singer of U2 and co-founder of ONE

Bumi Thomas – Singer Songwriter

Charlize Theron – Actor, Founder of Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Danai Gurira – Actor and award-winning playwright

David Oyelowo – Actor

Diamond – Singer

HHP – Rapper

Hon. Desmond Elliot – Politician and Former actor

Jessica Oyelowo – Actor

Judith Sephuma- Singer  

Leymah Gbowee – Nobel Peace Prize winning activist

Muntu Valdo – Musician

Rashida Jones – Actor

Sacha Baron Cohen – Actor

Sally Dura –  Gender activist

Selmor – Singer

Toolz – Radio Presenter

Vanessa Mdee – Singer

Victoria Kimani – Singer

Waje – Singer

Yemi Alade – Singer

About ONE

The ONE Campaign is a policy and advocacy organization of more than 7 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, it raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and other preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. Find out more at www.one.org

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