01.24.24 / Category: Donor Spotlights

A Special Message on the International Day of Education From Newly Elected Board Chair

In my “day job”, I focus on gender, foreign policy, peace and security. The work is complex and demanding. So, why do I spend my off hours working with the Circle of Sisterhood on girls’ education in the U.S. and around the world? Because girls’ education transforms communities, countries and the entire world. It contributes to more stable, resilient societies that give all individuals, including boys and men, the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

Yet, around the world, 129 million girls are out of school, including 32 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67 million of upper-secondary school age. In countries affected by conflict, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than girls living in non-affected countries.

The Taliban, almost immediately after they took control in Afghanistan, banned women and girls from attending schools. Why? Because they know (and we know) that continuing education leads to greater gender equality within communities. Data from the World Bank show that girls who complete secondary school are better equipped to become healthier, more prosperous adults, with smaller families and children who are less at risk of illness and death and more likely to succeed. Further, girls with a secondary education are more likely to participate in the labor force as adults and be decision makers at home and in their communities. 

Women’s participation in public life is a crucial feature of democratic societies. Women’s political participation ensures that decisions are credible and legitimate. When women and men share the power to make decisions and lead, the benefits are felt throughout their communities. Moreover, societies that govern themselves democratically are safer, stronger and more secure. Years of empirical research demonstrate that strong democracies not only avoid war with one another, but also have much lower levels of civil conflict, deadly terrorism, attacks against women, violent crime, and poverty.

Conversely, systemic and systematic marginalization and exclusion of any segment of the population undermines the architecture and promise of democracy. One notable study concludes that if relations between men and women in a society are rooted in autocracy, exploitation, violence, insecurity and even terror, the more likely that country is to be involved in intra- and interstate conflict, to be the first to resort to force in such a conflicts, and to resort to higher levels of violence.

The connections between girls’ education and security are clear. Organizations like the Circle of Sisterhood understand this and exist to help make a better life possible by removing barriers to education and creating sustainable change for girls and women around the globe. On this International Day of Education, I re-dedicate myself to this work and raising the awareness of others so they can join our efforts.

Written by Susan Markham, Circle of Sisterhood, Board of Trustees Chair.