“…overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life’.
– Nelson Mandela.

The school holidays have not long ended and my two daughters have returned to school. They spent many afternoons over the break hanging out in our backyard, soaking up the sunshine, playing, fighting and simply being kids. It made me think about how fortunate they are.  
Firstly they can enjoy their childhood without war or famine. When it comes to schooling, they were born into a culture that values education for girls and they have access to a great education system.  When they become teenagers they will not be forced to marry and drop out of school.
As parents, we can afford to send them to school and don’t require them to work to support our family income. They don’t need to walk long distances to school and are free from the threat of violence.  Their school has proper toilets and they can attend to their hygiene with dignity.  They have access to medical treatment when they are sick.
Truly my girls have all the support they need to learn, grow and develop their potential, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful. 
But as I look beyond my own backyard, I’m aware that millions of girls in developing countries are still being denied an education due to a range of barriers.  According to UNESCO, 65 million girls are not in school today. Of these 16 million are expected never to enter school, compared to 8 million boys.
But access to education should not be a privilege determined by gender, country of birth and economic status.  Every child in the world deserves to go to school.

When girls are educated, not only do their own lives improve, but their families and communities also benefit.
Here’s what we know through research:
  • If a girl completes school she is less likely to marry early and have children before she’s physically and emotionally ready. 
  • For every additional year of schooling, a girl’s earnings increase by 10-20%.
  • Educating girls is the most effective way to improve the health and well-being of her future children.
  • Educating girls is key to reducing poverty as women reinvest 80% of their earnings back into their families.
There are many other benefits to keeping girls in school, however, it’s not just an economic, health or development issue – it’s also a rights issue.
Every girl on the planet has the same right to learn.  And the same right to discover who she is and how she can uniquely contribute to the world.  We all lose when this isn’t the case.
Getting girls into school and keeping them there requires both will and action by all levels of society.
It means governments of developed nations continuing to fund overseas aid programs that reduce the barriers for girls.
It means companies backing initiatives that are bringing about social change in developing communities.
It means individuals and not for profits continuing to advocate for change, even when progress seems slow. 
And it means all of us looking beyond our own backyards and upholding her rights.
On this World Day of Social Justice, let’s see her and let’s not forget her. 
Because she is amazing.
Written by Bridget Hadfield
Photo by Amanda Viviers