Afghan schoolgirls hold hands and walk towards their tent classrooms on the outskirts of Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (AP Photo)

Humanitarian NGOs call on Canada to invest $500M in education for girls

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A coalition of Canada’s leading humanitarian NGOs is calling on the Liberal government to back up its talk of international leadership in empowering women by contributing $500 million over the next three years towards setting up a global fund dedicated to education programs for girls.

International NGOs hope to raise $1.3 billion US over the next three years to support education for 3.7 million children in crisis, with a special emphasis on educating girls, said David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada.

The funding request follows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement last month that investing in girls’ education, especially in crisis situations, is a vital part of achieving gender equality, and will be one of his key priorities at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec later this week.

“If the world needs more Canada, the G7 is our opportunity to deliver it,” Morley said. “If we want to turn feminist talk into walk, now is the time.”

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In addition to such well-known NGOs as Plan International Canada, Results Canada, Right to Play, Save the Children, UNICEF Canada and World Vision the funding request enjoys strong grassroots support from ordinary Canadians, Morley said.

A petition to drum up support for over 75 million children who are currently out of school in nearly three dozen crises and conflict, launched in April by Fatuma Omar Ismail, a former Somali refugee who is now a University of Toronto student, has garnered 160,000 signatures.

“Life hasn’t always been easy. I was one of the lucky ones to get a chance at a better life and I am very grateful for all the opportunities I was given,” said Ismail. “While education saved my life, far too many children spend their lives in limbo and are not getting the education they deserve. It is time we do something about it. This is Canada’s chance to lead on what is right.”

Girls sit next to a riddled wall in a school yard in the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria May 24, 2016. (Bassam Khabieh/REUTERS)

Investing in education for girls, who are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys during times of crises, can play an important part in breaking the cycle of violence and conflict that their countries are facing, Morley said.

“We know that educating girls is a way to ensure that children that are eventually born to them will be healthier, that they will participate more in the economy, and that they will not suffer in the same from violence and early marriage,” Morley said.

Humanitarian and development agencies have discussed the issue with the federal government, he said.

“We know that the commitment is there but we don’t know what the exact dollars are going to be,” Morley said.

Providing opportunities for girls and women to access and complete at least 12 years of education, from their early years through to the end of secondary, including technical and vocational education and training, was one of the key objectives agreed upon during the meeting of G7 Development Ministers in Whistler over the weekend.

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