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Excuse me, Mr Speaker. My cold is a demonstration, if I may say so, of joint working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as it is the Foreign Secretary’s cold, which he has shared, most unreasonably. [Interruption.] We have sent him abroad.
Promoting 12 years of quality education for all girls by 2030 is a personal priority of the Prime Minister’s and of mine. Girls in fragile states are central to this. When girls are educated, societies are healthier, wealthier and more sustainable. The UK is the leading donor to the global fund for education in emergencies, which supported over 1 million children to attend school in 2018.
There is a fantastic charity in Newbury, Afghan Connection, which has built or renovated over 100 schools in Takhar province, where most adult women are illiterate, yet their daughters go to school because the charity has offered separate school buildings and female-only teaching staff. What steps can my right hon. Friend take to support schooling that reflects social and religious sensitivities like this?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising the excellent work done by her local charity, Afghan Connection, and I look forward to hearing more about the work it is doing. Perhaps we can join that up.
DFID supports marginalised girls’ access and stay-in-school through strategies such as gender-sensitive infrastructure and pedagogy. DFID supports two girls’ education challenge projects in Afghanistan specifically. The UK is the largest donor to the Global Partnership for Education and to Education Cannot Wait, which supports girls’ education across fragile states.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her previous answers. As a former secondary school teacher, I know first hand the role that education has in unleashing potential, so will she update the House on what steps her Department is taking to support women and girls in fragile and conflict-affected states to ensure that where somebody is born has no bearing on their future potential?
I thank my hon. Friend for his service to education before coming on to the green Benches, and I know that he will support our commitment to educating girls. Girls in emergencies and crises are more than twice as likely to be out of school, so the UK prioritises quality education in conflicts and crises. We are the largest donor to Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies, and bilaterally, we are supporting education for over 600,000 girls in Syria and surrounding countries.
I welcome the Secretary of State to her place. International Women’s Day is a focal point of the year to celebrate the movement for women’s rights and gender equality, and we welcome her Department’s focus on girls’ education, but does she agree that girls’ education is a basic and universal human right, not something that should be used simply as a means to achieve other ends? Will she commit to implementing a gender-transformative approach across DFID’s work to help dismantle the structural causes of gender inequality?
I agree absolutely that education is a right for all, but especially for girls. We all know that if a girl is educated, that community gains so much more than just that education. That is something that at DFID and across this Government we are absolutely committed to. We are working in a number of areas on gender equality and reductions in violence against girls, and part of the focus that I am going to give to DFID around girls’ education for 12 years is the Prime Minister’s absolute commitment. We will be drawing together all those constituent parts.
Does the Secretary of State agree that we need much more energy from legislators worldwide? If we are going to tackle girls’ education worldwide, as well as my own World Health Organisation work on reducing road accidents worldwide, can we not get the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and legislators around the world helping Ministers to do the job properly?
It sounds to me like the hon. Gentleman has just given himself a job to help me to draw up the plan that we want to bring together, which is exactly as he mentioned. If the focus is on ensuring that every girl across the globe has 12 years of education, we need to include all those things that make it possible, such as getting to school safely and appropriate sanitation in those schools so that girls can keep attending. I look forward to him coming to help us—