Clegg: Girls' education is the best cure for poverty

On his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa ahead of the G8 in the UK this summer, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg writes exclusively for about why girls hold the key to breaking the cycle of poverty

Across the world, over 60 million girls are out of school. For every one of them, this is a tragedy of promise unfulfilled.

What's more, it's a waste of potential. The benefits of education - and in particular, educating girls - are proven, and staggering. An extra year in primary school boosts a girl's eventual wages by 10 to 20 per cent. An extra year of secondary education can add 25 per cent. And it isn't just about increased earnings: girls who are educated are more likely to get themselves and their families immunised against fatal diseases; girls who have been to secondary school are three times less likely to be HIV positive.

I believe investing in girls' education is one of the most effective things we can do to break the cycle of poverty. That's why in the UK we are targeting our aid towards educating girls, with the Girls' Education Challenge - the largest and most ambitious project of its kind in the world. 

This fund will help improve the lives of up to one million girls in some of the poorest countries in the world through education. It has been distributed to 15 different charities and businesses to run different projects. This week I launched two projects run by Save the Children, and supported by UK aid, in Mozambique and Ethiopia. 

In Mozambique, one in three girls drop out of primary school - and only one in four reach secondary school. UK support will help more than 39,000 girls aged 5-15 to go to school. Education kits will be provided to help girls attend primary school and partnerships with the private sector will be developed to offer bursaries for girls in secondary school.

The work is far-reaching and includes community-led radio programmes to be broadcast in ten districts - addressing the widespread cultural misperceptions on girls' education, to ensure that families encourage their daughters to go to school. Work is also being done to make sure that girls have safe access to education and do not suffer sexual violence in schools. Girls' clubs are being established to provide mentoring and homework support to thousands of girls.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is supporting the project with £5.7m and Save the Children is contributing an extra £590k.

In Ethiopia, fewer than one in six girls go to secondary school. The Girls' Education Challenge Fund will get 50,000 girls into school, in remote areas of Ethiopia. This work will focus on innovative techniques such as focusing on local languages, using radio to encourage parents to send their children to school and seeking to involve the private sector. 

The two projects in Ethiopia, which amount to £11 million of UK funding, complement DFID's existing programmes, which support around one in ten primary school teachers in rural areas of Ethiopia. 

With more projects like these getting girls into education and keeping them there, I believe the cycle of poverty for thousands of families can and will be broken.

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