Today marks the eight annual International Day of the Girl, a day established by the United Nations to amplify girls’ voices and stand up for their rights as envisioned in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.
The Platform for Action, which will mark 25 years next year, envisioned gender equality in all dimensions of life, something that no country has yet achieved, according to the U.N.. Nowhere is this truer, say women’s rights advocates, than in education.
According to New York-based Women Deliver, only 45 percent of developing countries have achieved gender parity at the lower secondary education level (seventh through ninth grades) and only 25 percent have done so at the upper secondary level (10th through 12th grades). This adds up to more than 130 million girls around the world who lack access to education.
To mark today’s International Day of the Girl, HP and the nonprofit Girl Rising—best known for its award-winning documentary of the same name—announced a new initiative leveraging the tech giant’s technology solutions for schools and Girl Rising’s youth empowerment curriculum.
The initiative seeks to reach up to 10 million students and teachers in the United States, India and Nigeria, helping to raise awareness of the value of investing in girls and helping HP meet its goal of enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025.
“HP believes that education is a fundamental human right that creates pathways to new opportunities,” said Michele Malejki, global head of HP’s social impact programs. “Data also show that education is one of the single most effective ways to eradicate poverty and a critical building block for nations’ economic growth and development.”
The new initiative will add Girl Rising’s teacher training modules to HP’s Education Edition PCs. Targeted toward primary and secondary schools, HP will also deploy a suite of curricula and a library of content to accompany the HP School Pack, a suite of software pre-loaded onto HP’s EHP Education Edition PC.
In addition, with the goal to develop the next generation of female leaders, the HP Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurship (HP LIFE), a free e-learning program from the HP Foundation created to support entrepreneurship and skills development, will provide additional curriculum in the three markets. HP School Packs, a suite of software for educators, will also be available for the duration of the program.
HP says it will evaluate additional opportunities for Girl Rising content and curricula distribution, including new products and services, as well as additional partners to scale the program over the next three years.
Today’s announcement continues HP’s work with Girl Rising, which began in 2015 with the launch of the Hindi-language version of Girl Rising in India. In 2018, the organizations created the Girl Rising Creative Challenge, which celebrated everyday gender equality champions around the world. And earlier this year, HP supported the production and distribution of the nonprofit’s latest documentary, Brave Girl Rising.
Girl Rising, which currently has programs in 11 countries, uses storytelling in its original media and creative campaigns to explore intimate real-life issues facing girls, such as forced marriage, forced labor and gender-based violence, as well as the universal benefits of educating girls. They then work with local partners to reach youth and their communities through customized curriculum.
“We embed the stories in the curriculum to spark dialogue among girls about their rights, to build their skills and confidence, to address powerful social norms that hold girls back, and—critically—to build empathy and awareness among boys and parents to ensure a different future for girls,” said Christina Lowery, CEO of Girl Rising, on the eve of International Day of the Girl in New York.
Next up for Girl Rising are films supported by educational campaigns on how sports can change a girl’s live, and the link between girl’s education and climate change.
In addition to Girl Rising, HP recently announced an agreement with U.N. Women at last month’s U.N. General Assembly to advance education, entrepreneurship and digital learning for women and girls in Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Morocco. The agreement centers on two U.N. Women initiatives, Second Chance Education and African Girls Can Code.
For HP’s Malejki, the partnerships with both Girl Rising and U.N. Women just make sense. “Technology can be a great equalizer for underserved and marginalized groups,” she says. “They help bridge the digital divide and connect people and communities to greater opportunity.”
Partnerships such as these also help HP invest in tomorrow’s workforce as the company expands globally. In a 2018 global report on talent shortages by ManpowerGroup, 45 percent of employers find it difficult to recruit employees with the necessary skills.
It turns out that investing in education for girls is one of the best investments a company, donor or country can make.
“Giving girls access to education and opportunity is the most effective factor in transforming pressing global issues including health, poverty and climate change,” she says.
And the data back her up. According to the U.N.’s Girls’ Education Initiative, every additional year of secondary schooling for a girl increases her future earnings by 10 to 20 percent. The World Bank reports that, compared to women with no education, women with secondary education earn almost twice as much and those with tertiary education almost three times as much. Women who are better educated also have fewer unplanned children, are less likely to marry early, and are more likely to drive national economic growth.
Perhaps no one says it better than philanthropist Melinda Gates, no stranger herself to the world of high-tech and global development, in her recent book The Moment of Lift: “If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.”
Image credit: Girl Rising
Maggie Kohn is excited to be a contributor to Triple Pundit to illustrate how business can achieve positive change in the world while supporting long-term growth. Maggie worked for more than 20 years at the biopharma giant Merck & Co., Inc., leading corporate responsibility and social business initiatives. She currently writes, speaks and consults on corporate responsibility and social impact when she is not busy fostering kittens for her local animal shelter. Click here to learn more.