06 October 2016
The campaign to educate women is as much a matter of the right to life as abortion
As much as I disagreed with most of what the late Christopher Hitchens had to say about religion, on the 1 October 2009 he and I were in furious agreement.
Christopher was on his last trip to Australia and was invited to appear on Q&A, a current affairs programme on ABC television. At one stage an audience member asked him: “What one thing would you do to change the world for the better?” Without hesitation, Christopher said: “I would educate every girl child.”
The clarity was stunning, the implications were vast and the ends were entirely good. I am reminded of this because, at the risk of suffering from United Nations Day/Month/Year overload, 11 October is the International Day of the Girl Child. The facts are compelling: even now, 65 million girls are not in school; of the 123 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who cannot read or write, 61 per cent are women; half of the girl children who are not in school live in conflict-ridden countries.
The nations where girls receive the least education are Somalia, Niger, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Pakistan and Benin. Afghanistan was in the top 10 until very recently.
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