June has been an exceptionally busy time for our advocacy group. Many of us attended the RESULTS International Conference held on June 12 and 13, followed by Advocacy Week during which we joined other advocates to meet with congressional offices. You can listen to many of the speakers and workshops from this conference here. In particular, I recommend the session on global education, which included Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, and Maryjacob Okwuosa, a Youth Leader for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), from Nigeria. One of my other favorite sessions discussed nutrition and global health equity. Feel free to wander through the recordings as there were many excellent speakers.
Our attention currently is focused on girls’ education. An estimated 80% of the world’s school-age children, over 1.6 billion, have experienced disruptions in their education due to COVID-19. Children living in poverty, especially girls and those from marginalized communities, have had it the worst as many have no internet access to learn remotely, and they still don’t have access to the COVID-19 vaccines. Even before COVID-19, an estimated 617 million children and adolescents around the world were unable to reach minimum proficiency levels in reading and math, even though two-thirds of them were in school. The current situation will only make things more desperate. Once a girl is out of school, it is very hard to get her to return.
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) jumped into action at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, investing $500 million in emergency COVID-19 support to develop curriculum for radio, train teachers, provide internet access, and deliver lessons house-to-house. GPE has proven that coordinating resources around country-owned, national education plans can make a difference. Since 2002, GPE has supported over 160 million more children to be in school receiving a quality education. Support for global education within international development, in general, has always had bipartisan support. And now it’s more important than ever to invest in global education.
Therefore, we are calling on Congress to support the GPE replenishment robustly, as education is a critical component of gender equality. GPE is seeking $5 billion in pledges at the end of July to execute their 5-year global education plan. We need the U.S. to make a leadership pledge of $1 billion in July so that other countries will step up. But the Biden Administration has not prioritized global education in their Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget, proposing $682 million in contrast to $950 million which was approved for FY21. We need to wake up the Biden Administration to this education crisis by activating Congress.
This month our members have been reaching out to their representatives asking that they sign a bipartisan letter to President Biden seeking the $1 billion pledge over five years. When we consider that the defense budget for FY 2019 was $686 billion for a single year, or over 15% of the federal budget, this ask is a small, high-impact investment with a huge return in opportunity, peace, and a sustainable world. I also remind you that our foreign affairs budget is barely 1% of the entire federal budget.
When people ask if our advocacy has impact, I answer with a resounding YES. Before the G7, there was a letter in the Senate that had 10 Senators sign on, calling on the Biden Administration for a $1 billion pledge for GPE. Three of those 10 senators took this action at the request of members of the Together Women Rise Advocacy Chapter. That’s impact! And because this letter got to President Biden before the G7, he did not make a pledge to GPE at that time, which would have been inadequate. That has given us the opportunity mobilize Congress to call on the Biden Administration for the $1 billion pledge we are seeking at the end of July at the GPE replenishment conference. Our voices count. You can join us in this action by going here. And there is still a letter to President Biden urging an increase to GPE funding pledge here which can be sent to your Representative.
Please consider joining us here for our next webinar on Tuesday, July 13th at 8 PM ET. Also please note that in July we will be meeting on the second Tuesday and only one evening that month. If you would like to watch our last webinar, the recording can be found here.
After the GPE replenishment at the end of July, we will turn our attention to global nutrition, including maternal and child health as well as treating and preventing malnutrition. Stay tuned for a deep dive into global nutrition for girls and women in August.