5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Mabel van Oranje

GPE asks Mabel van Oranje 5 questions on the power of education. GPE's financing campaign seeks to raise at least $5 billion over five years to transform education for up to 1 billion children in 90 countries and territories.

June 30, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Mabel van Oranje

Mabel van Oranje is the Global champion for Girls Not Brides.

1. What is the link between access to quality education for girls and ending child marriage?

Child marriage and the lack of quality education for all girls are both rooted in poverty and in gender inequality. Too many people believe that girls and women are inferior to boys and men.

The relationship between child marriage and girls’ education works both ways. For example, a girl who drops out of school might find that marriage is one of the only alternatives; or, the decision that a girl should get married may force her to leave school.

Keeping girls in school, especially secondary school, is one of the best ways of preventing child marriage.

Just as important, child marriage is one of the main factors why girls drop out of school.

2. How has the impact of COVID-19 on education affected child marriage globally, and how is Girls Not Brides responding?

COVID-19 has a devastating impact on global progress towards gender equality, including efforts to end child marriage. At least 10 million more girls are expected to be married by 2030 because of school closures, increasing poverty, and other implications of the pandemic; that is on top of the 12 million girls who are already married every year before their 18th birthday.

Girls Not Brides member organizations are reporting challenges in funding, disrupted services and supplies, and difficulties supporting adolescent girls remotely. There is a risk that many girls will drop out of school altogether.

If we want to continue to reach girls, their families and their communities under these circumstances, we need to support those who have local access. At Girls Not Brides, we are therefore advocating for more, and more flexible funding to support civil society organizations working on the ground to end child marriage.

3. You recently raised your hand in support of GPE’s financing campaign, which aims to raise at least $5 billion over five years to transform education for more than 1 billion children and protect domestic financing. How could a fully-funded GPE contribute to ending child marriage?

Insufficient funding for education affects the quality, accessibility and affordability of education. Girls, especially those from poor, rural or conflict-affected areas, are the most affected.

Without good teachers and gender-responsive learning materials, many girls struggle to learn.

A lack of local secondary schools means that girls often face a long and sometimes dangerous journey to school. And when education isn’t properly funded, families have to pay more in school fees and for uniforms, books, exams, and transport to school. As a result, too many girls are taken out of school.

A fully funded GPE will support low and lower-middle income countries to develop gender-responsive education plans that support ALL girls to access 12 years of quality education, in addition to one year of pre-primary, including girls at risk of marriage and married girls.

4. GPE and President Uhuru Kenyatta are asking partner countries to prioritize, protect and increase domestic financing, set policies that leave no child behind, and ensure the efficient use of resources. What are the financial and policy commitments countries need to make to realize every girl’s right to education?

When a girl is educated, everybody benefits. Education empowers girls and increases not just their earning potential. It also provides a pathway for them to choose whether, when and whom to marry. Education enriches families and countries.

Governments should make the financial and policy commitments that are necessary to ensure that all girls can go to school, and that schools are safe spaces providing quality education.

As long as child marriage exists, it will be impossible to have every girl complete 12 years of education. Countries should therefore incorporate strategies to address child marriage into their education policies and budgets.

5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?

At school, I learned not only from the ‘normal’ curriculum, but also from everything else that was ‘on offer’. This included rhetorical debates we had with teachers and amongst ourselves, theatre plays we wrote and performed, and excursions we made.

It was an enriching experience which helped me grow, emotionally and intellectually. I wish that every girl could have the same experience, regardless of the place and family in which she is born.

Read other interviews from this series.

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