This week, I'm thrilled to take part in the seventh annual ASU GSV Summit, an event that supports and advances the entrepreneurial ecosystem in education.
While I'm wandering from session to session, listening to presenting companies or keynote addresses from speakers whose lists of accomplishments rival the length of school textbooks, I can't help but reflect on how fortunate I've been with the educational opportunities in my own life. How fortunate so many of us have been, really. Because although education is a fundamental human right that is "essential for the exercise of all other human rights," the number of children and adults who are deprived of education worldwide is not just distressing -- it's deplorable.
As an educated woman with two school-aged daughters who have never had to doubt their own right to an education, it is especially hard to swallow that 62 million girls around the world -- half of whom are adolescent -- are currently denied the right to an education. For these girls, complex issues such as physical, cultural and financial barriers to learning are an everyday reality.
It's a constant uphill battle that only becomes steeper and harder to navigate as these girls get older. One of their biggest roadblocks to overcome is the lack of support that is desperately needed not only for them to learn, but to thrive.
Yet most of you who are reading this blog post know that education -- particularly educating girls -- transforms lives. It transforms families, communities and entire countries. According to a World Bank study, for every year of education a girl in the developing world receives, her lifelong income increases by 18 percent. The impact on economic growth is undeniable.
Which is why it shouldn't come as a surprise that last week, the World Bank pledged to set aside $2.5 billion over the next five years in education projects that directly benefit adolescent girls in the developing world.
World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim announced the major investment at an event for Let Girls Learn, a United States government initiative spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama that aims to educate the public on how they can help girls receive a quality education.
Let Girls Learn is a collaborative effort among the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as other agencies and programs. The initiative "elevates existing programs and invests in new efforts to expand educational opportunities for girls -- including in areas of conflict and crisis."
Back in March, Michelle Obama spoke about the initiative to a crowded ballroom at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin. During her keynote address, she discussed how she recently enlisted the help of popular female artists -- including Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott, Lea Michele, Kelly Rowland and Zendaya -- to create an anthem for girls everywhere. The new song, "This is for My Girls," is a call to action that uses the voices of women who have impacted millions of fans to raise awareness for the millions of girls who have no voice when it comes to their access to education.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the song goes toward the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund. The support generated for Let Girls Learn thus far has led to measurable progress; in October 2015, USAID's Let Girls Learn in Pakistan announced it will provide $70 million to new and ongoing USAID programs that will benefit more than 200,000 adolescent girls ages 10-19, in coordination with the Pakistan government. And last November, USAID announced the construction of 25 new public schools in Jordan, 70 percent of which will be girls' schools.
There's still plenty of work to be done, of course, but every step forward counts, because this isn't just for our girls ... it's for all of us. Our future, our children's future, our children's children's future -- all of it depends on access to this basic human right.
Isn't it about time we #LetGirlsLearn?