New Delhi: G7 Foreign and Development Ministers meeting in London this week will invest $15 billion in development finance over the next two years to help women in developing countries access jobs, build resilient businesses and respond to the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19.
They will also sign up to new global targets to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 in low and lower middle income countries by 2026.
Educating girls is one of the smartest investments we can make to lift people out of poverty, grow economies, save lives, and build back better from Covid-19. A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live beyond the age of 5 years, twice as likely to attend school themselves – and 50% more likely to be immunised.
The $15 billion in funding is for the 2X Challenge, a partnership between G7 Development Finance Institutions [DFIs] launched in 2018. It leverages funding from DFIs and Multilateral Development Banks to provide finance to female owned and staffed businesses or products or services that particularly benefit women, supporting female economic empowerment.
COVID-19 has had a disproportionate and profound impact on women and girls, including losing precious school time, reduced access to lifesaving sexual and reproductive health services, a spike in gender-based violence, and increased risk of job loss.
Now, these fresh commitments by the world’s leading democracies, driven by the UK, put gender equality at the heart of global co-operation to build back better from COVID-19.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:
Ensuring girls get 12 years of quality education and women can work and earn an income are some of the smartest investments we can make to change the world, transforming the fortunes not just of individuals, but whole communities and nations.
This year, as we build back better from the pandemic, the UK is putting girls’ and women’s rights at the heart of our G7 presidency, uniting countries that share our values so we shape a better path ahead.
The collective G7 agreement to meet girls’ education targets comes ahead of the UK and Kenya co-hosted Global Education Summit in London in July, which will raise funds for the Global Partnership for Education.
The targets will be matched by the signing of the Girls’ Education Political Declaration on Wednesday 5th May by G7 Foreign and Development Ministers, a bold new statement outlining the financial and policy commitments needed to achieve these aims.
The 2X Challenge – named after the multiplier effect of investing in women – has committed more than $6bn of capital for investments that support women and girls in developing countries since it was launched in 2018.
The programme supports more women-owned businesses to thrive and increases access to better paid jobs with more flexible working. Projects supported under the scheme include PEG Africa, a solar power company providing home systems to customers in West Africa, which the UK’s CDC has invested $12.5 million in. As a result of the 2X Challenge, in Ghana the company has doubled the number of women in leadership positions from 22% to 44%.
Even before the pandemic, women in developing countries had significantly fewer economic opportunities than men and shouldered the majority of unpaid care work reducing their time for paid work. COVID-19 has compounded this, with new research showing $1 trillion could be lost from global growth as female workers fall out of the workforce.
The G7 will also re-commit to collective action to defend and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, scale up gender-based violence prevention and elimination, and ensure women’s voices are included at local, national, and international decision-making in the COVID-19 recovery.
Foreign and Development Ministers from the G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the UK, plus the EU, are in London from today [Monday] for two days of talks on a range of issues, their first in-person meeting in two years. The Foreign Secretary has also invited Australia, India, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the Chair of ASEAN to join parts of the meeting as guests.