G7 leaders commit to support girls’ education but fall short on financing the promise

published 15 June 2021 updated 15 June 2021

During last weekend’s meeting, G7 leaders announced their support for the Girls’ Education Declaration and committed to addressing the setbacks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, financial commitments announced for the Global Partnership for Education are below the amount needed to ensure the most vulnerable have access to education.

Decades of progress on girls’ education at risk

The COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented school closures have had disastrous consequences for millions of girls around the world. Thousands – perhaps millions – of girls were forced to drop out of school to care for their families, pushed into child marriage and child labour, subjected to female genital mutilation at higher rates, and exposed to increased gender-based violence.

Concerted and decisive action at the national and global levels is imperative in order to undo the damage the pandemic has caused.

The Girls’ Education Declaration

The Declaration endorsed by G7 leaders recognises the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls and pledges to place gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at the centre of COVID-19 recovery strategies. Girls’ education is highlighted as a critically important area of action for building back better.

Through the Declaration, G7 leaders call on all governments and the global community to redouble efforts and work together to ensure that all children, especially girls, have access to 12 years of safe and quality education.

With less than 10 years left to meet the global sustainable development goal on education (SDG4) by 2030, the Declaration also introduces two ambitious milestone objectives:

  • 40 million more girls in school by 2026 in low and lower-middle-income countries; and
  • 20 million more girls reading by age 10 or the end of primary school in low and lower- middle-income countries by 2026.

Not enough: Financial pledges to the Global Partnership for Education disappoint

Ahead of the G7 Summit, the United Kingdom announced its pledge to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the global funding mechanism for strengthening education systems in developing countries and increasing the number of students in schools. The £430 million pledge announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson falls short of the £600 million campaigners had estimated is necessary to fuel post-pandemic educational recovery. The pledge comes at a time when the UK has already slashed its aid budget by 40%, defunding important projects, including in education. Furthermore, the announcement will impact the Global Education Summit, which the UK will co-host in July, and which aims to raise US$5 billion for the GPE.

Despite endorsing the Girls’ Education Declaration, not all G7 leaders announced pledges to the GPE. In addition to the UK pledge, only the European Union and France announced their contributions to the GPE.

“Without immediate and decisive action, the progress we have made to increase girls’ participation in, and successful completion of a full cycle of education over the last few decades, risks being undone by the pandemic. Supporting the Girls’ Education Declaration and making strong GPE replenishment commitments are absolutely vital steps. Governments must step up and back up their promises with the funds needed to deliver on them.”

Haldis Holst, Education International Deputy General Secretary