5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Suzanne Ehlers

GPE asks Suzanne Ehlers 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.

May 18, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
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3 minutes read
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5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Suzanne Ehlers

1. GPE has launched its Raise Your Hand financing campaign with the ambition to raise at least $5 billion over five years to continue transforming education systems in up to 90 lower income countries and territories. Why is a fully funded GPE important to Malala Fund?

Our mission at Malala Fund is to build a future where every girl can learn and lead. Educating girls first and foremost is fundamental to ensuring girls’ human rights, not to mention making our economies stronger, reducing conflict, and improving public health. Our new research shows that education is also one of the most powerful strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change.

To get more girls learning, we need policies that protect and advance girls’ needs, and for governments to invest more in education. GPE's five-year strategic plan — if it's fully funded this year — will explicitly advance gender equality and ensure an additional 46 million girls in partner countries enroll in school. Their futures are worth fighting for.

2. Up to 1.7 billion children were out of school this year due to COVID-19, and Malala Fund estimates that 20 million more secondary school-aged girls could be out of school after the crisis has passed. Why is financing girls’ education so important in this context?

The pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges girls and women already faced before this health crisis. In many communities, gender norms limit girls’ opportunities to learn and increase their exposure to violence. Girls are married off or forced to get jobs to help reduce families' financial insecurity; and looming budget cuts at the national level will only make things worse.

To help more girls learn now and long after the pandemic is over, strong education financing is key. When governments invest in education, it means more students have access to trained teachers, fewer overcrowded classrooms, up-to-date curricula and appropriate education-focused technology.

This is good for girls and for our world.

3. Malala Fund has published a new report on climate change and education. Could you tell us more about this research and its main findings?

Young women are leading the charge for a greener, fairer future — documenting the climate crisis, organizing strikes and updating curriculums. But they are also disproportionately bearing the impact of climate change.

Malala Fund’s report estimates that in 2021 alone, climate-related events will prevent at least four million girls from finishing school. Featuring insights from girl activists throughout, our research also explains how confronting issues like the legacy of colonialism, racial discrimination and gender inequality through education is key to finding a sustainable solution to the crisis.

Using the report, Malala Fund hopes to show COP26 leaders that climate action helps girls stay in school, which in turn helps countries tackle the climate crisis.

4. What do you hope the G7 summit will accomplish for education?

The G7 Summit is a chance for leaders to ensure more girls learn now and long after the pandemic is over.

To accomplish this, we want to see leaders mobilize a substantial financial stimulus for education. This includes debt cancellation, a full GPE Replenishment and G7 countries moving closer to spending 0.7% of national income on Official Development Assistance.

We also want leaders to transform their education systems to be more gender-equal. The problems keeping girls out of school often intersect with other crises — climate, health, gender equality — and investing in education can make progress on all these fronts.

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

Of course! When I reflect on my time at school, I often focus on the activities I participated in — the school newspaper, the volleyball team, and the theater program. But now I realize how influential my teachers were in shaping my social and emotional development as well.

Teachers encouraged me to play bassoon, to explore new languages (French!) and to practice my leadership skills. I love to travel and learn about other cultures, and I know that's in part due to the influence of my Humanities teacher. Teachers challenge and inspire students to become their best selves.

Read other interviews from this series.

Suzanne Ehlers raises her hand to support GPE financing campaign
Suzanne Ehlers raises her hand to support GPE financing campaign.
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