Dear Ban Ki-moon… Is this education good enough?

Poor quality education leads girls in the Philippines into early marriages. The Girl Declaration is here to change that.

We've asked organisations involved in the Girl Declaration consultations to write to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to let him know what girls want to see post-2015. Here, Habiba Mohammad from the Population and Reproductive Health Initiative (PRHI) writes an open letter on behalf of Nigeria's adolescent girls...

Dear Ban Ki-moon,

Sending a girl to school without any books is not good enough. Neither is setting targets to get them into school when their parents can't afford it. 

That's the message girls in Nigeria want you to hear. 

As part of the Girl Effect girl consultations, I spoke to Nigerian girls from Abuja and Zaria. They told me that while on paper most of them can go to school, the reality is very different.

Girls want to be role models

Nigerian girls are very intelligent and well focused, with aspirations of a brighter future. 

With role models such as Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (the Nigerian minister of finance) and Amina Mohammed (UN special adviser), they're not short of inspirational female figures. 

Girls want the opportunity to be role models themselves one day: to be doctors, teachers and representatives of the UN. But right now their future seems very bleak. 

Cultural norms, family priorities and community attitudes are some of the biggest obstacles that need to be challenged - but money is proving to be the main sticking point.

School is too expensive

Girls' ambitions are marred by an unfair and expensive education system that's skewed towards boys. If high costs cause parents to have to choose which child to send to school, they will often choose their son rather than their daughter because boys are seen as future breadwinners, whereas girls are regarded as needing protection from the dangers of the outside world. 

The girls I spoke to are exceptionally perceptive. They know full well that they'll continue to lose out to their male counterparts until these costs disappear. 

One 12-year-old girl told me: "I want to go to school and be like my friends that are there." Her mother wants her to go to school too. Unfortunately, she hasn't got the money to pay for books, uniforms and sandals - not to mention the exam and registration fees.

There is a solution

Cost is not the only barrier to education for girls. 

Lack of safe water, roads and health facilities all limit girls' ability to attend school, as does the threat of violence, which makes them feel vulnerable and scared on a daily basis. These are problems that can, and should, be solved - a girl shouldn't be denied an education because of a missing tap. 

PRHI works to remove these barriers to girls' education and the results speak for themselves. By providing secondary school scholarships and safe spaces for adolescent girls, we've made huge strides. School retention is up (which in turn reduces early marriage), academic achievement has improved and the girls are developing leadership qualities.

Girls know what Nigeria needs

The post-2015 development goals need to address the deep-rooted issues that are stopping all girls in Nigeria from reaching their potential. As UN secretary-general, you can make policy makers listen to the voices of these adolescent girls. You can make a real difference to their lives by challenging what it means to have a valuable education in Nigeria.

You can make it happen. Will you?

Yours sincerely,


The Girl Declaration brings together these Nigerian girls' voices with thinking from 25 of the world's leading development organisations. Have you pledged your support yet?