#GirlsCount is a campaign launched on March 6, 2017 by ONE, an international campaigning and advocacy organization co-founded by U2’s leader Bono. With almost 8 million members in the world, ONE fights against extreme poverty and preventable disease every day, particularly in Africa. It firmly believes that to end extreme poverty what is needed is not charity, but justice and equality. Following this principle, ONE does not ask civil society for money, but to raise our voices together. ONE’s campaigns go beyond the scopes of political, religious and ideological beliefs: they connect us together from all walks of life and show that we have more in common than what divides us.
Every year ONE selects its “Youth Ambassadors”, young volunteers who will carry out its campaigns all over the world. A few days ago, I was in Rome for the launch of the Italian Youth Ambassadors program for which I had been chosen, and that not by chance took place in the same day as International Women’s Day. This because this year ONE’s main campaign #GirlsCount advocates the right to education for girls in the poorest countries in the world.
Education is crucial to eradicate gender gaps and to remove entire communities from conditions of extreme poverty. As such, the role education plays in the attainment of the sustainable development goals is vital. Innumerable findings show that an educated country is richer, more stable, and healthier and that universal access to education is one of the best instruments to prevent extreme poverty.
In the world, there are more than 130 million girls who are denied access to education, of which 46 million only in Sub-Saharan Africa. Together these 130 million girls would make up the world’s 10th most populous country, as big as France and the UK together. The number is so enormous that we cannot fully understand its vastness and we are inclined to forget that we are not only talking about figures, but about real girls with dreams and desires being denied a future. To educate those girls would mean to empower the communities they live in and, consequently, to lead to global development.
As ONE Youth Ambassador, I will have the responsibility to carry out ONE’s campaign to sensitize civil society and to lobby local and national governments. In Rome, we were welcomed by the Chamber of Deputies and had the chance to talk to Vice-President Sereni and several other MPs, with whom we found consensus on the need to allocate a greater percentage of Italian development aid to education in less developed countries, with a special regard to girls. Since actions speak louder than words, they agreed on supporting the campaign in the next parliamentary meetings and international summits, such as the meeting of the presidents of the G7 parliaments that will be hosted in Italy in 2017.
If lobbying governments is important to make politics and international cooperation more socially oriented, what is also essential is the involvement of us, the civil society. If you do believe that all girls count and you cannot ignore the tremendous number of uneducated female population in the world, you can and should be part of the change. Make sure your voice will be heard by taking part in the longest video ever, featuring people overcoming all divides counting to 130 million. ONE asks you to join its global campaign on https://girlscount.one.org by picking a number and recording yourself alone, with your friends or family counting it. If we were to count alone all the way to 130 million it would take us more than 5 years, but working together we can accomplish more. By adding your voice to this campaign, you will help fight injustice in view of social progress and you will convey the message too often forgotten: “we are not equal until we are all equal”.