It always surprises me when donors who operate successful businesses assume that just building a school structure means that a community now has access to education. When creating a business, does renting an office space now mean that you're producing goods, training staff and generating revenues?
More than 2 million people found themselves behind bars at the turn of the twenty-first century, and millions more were relegated to the margins of mainstream society, banished to a political and social space not unlike Jim Crow, where discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education was perfectly legal, and where they could be denied the right to vote.
There are 4 billion cell phones in use today. Many of them are in the hands of market vendors, rickshaw drivers, and others who've historically lacked access to education and opportunity. Information networks have become a great leveler, and we should use them together to help lift people out of poverty and give them a freedom from want.
More people have access to education today than ever before. But I cannot help but feel that the modern educational experience is not preparing us adequately to attend the rich banquet of life. Certainly the young people of today have mastered the use of technology and are capable of solving complex scientific and mathematical problems, but who and what do these serve if they cannot think for themselves? If they have no understanding of the meaning and purpose of their own lives? If they do not know who they are as individuals?
Two thirds of the work in the world is done by women. Women own 1 percent of the assets. Young women are sold into prostitution, forced labour, premature marriage, forced to have children they don't want or they can't support. They're abused, raped, beaten up. Domestic violence is supposed to be a cultural problem. They are the first victims of war, fundamentalism, conflict, recession. And young women who have access to education and health care and have resources think that everything was done, they don't have to worry.
Women want to be free to choose from the same range of options that men take for granted. In our quest for equal pay, equal access to education and opportunities, we have made great strides. But until women can move freely and think freely in their homes, on the streets, in the workplace without the fear of violence, there can be no real freedom.
We've shown again and again, in every UN report on the status of women, that wherever women control their own bodies and have access to education, societies prosper. Men's fortunes go up, children's fortunes go up. This is not news - it's been proven repeatedly. Anywhere those things are threatened, we have to defend them.
Everyone wins when children - and especially girls – have access to education. An educated girl is likely to increase her personal earning potential and prepare herself for a productive and fulfilling life, as well as reduce poverty in the whole community. Investing in girls' education also helps delay early marriage and parenthood. Our booming economies in Africa need more female engineers, teachers and doctors to prosper and sustain growth.