75 million children and youth are out-of-school in 35 crisis-affected countries.
When faced with such a vast number, it can be easy to default to cynicism. Solutions to such daunting, global crises seem impossible or out-of-reach.
I myself have witnessed a growing sentiment of defeatism. Many no longer have faith in the global community to acknowledge, let alone tackle, humanity’s biggest challenges.
The major headlines from the G7 summit earlier this month certainly did not help to contradict these feelings. The general gist seemed to be that the global community was fracturing, with some declaring that the G7 itself was no longer effectual.
But as is too often the case, the media missed the bigger story.
At the G7 Summit on June 9th, G7 countries, led by Canada, committed $3.8 billion CAD to educating children in emergencies, especially girls who are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys during crises.
I was on stage with the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, when she announced the historic funding commitment at the summit. What I witnessed was not the action of a broken or fragmented global community.
This $3.8 billion pledge by G7 leaders is the largest amount ever invested in advancing girls’ education in emergencies.
Because of this substantial financial commitment by the G7 leaders and other sources, nearly 9 million children living in refugee camps and conflict zones around the world will be closer to realizing their fundamental human rights – rights that they have been denied for far too long.
Their right to learn and grow in a safe environment. Their right to raise their voices. Their right to exercise their choices. Their right to define their futures.
These young people are inherently powerful and hold the promise to dramatically remake the world for the better, using innovation and creativity to solve society’s biggest challenges.
By committing to providing quality, long-term education through the lens of gender equality to this generation – especially every girl – the possibilities for our collective future are limitless.
To mark World Refugee Day, I call on Canadians to start believing in the impossible and out-of-reach. I urge everyone to start believing in the power of the collective.
You can start by taking inspiration from the very individuals who have the least reason to be hopeful or believe in a better tomorrow.
We recently asked girls living in a refugee camp in Jordan about their hopes and dreams for the future.
Sixteen-year-old Jamila* dreams of becoming an astronomer or an astronaut. Seven-year-old Iman* dreams of being a doctor. Thirteen-year-old Nadira* dreams of being an English teacher.
The incredible thing about girls is that even when it seems the world has given up on them, they never give up themselves.
Just as these girls hold within them an inalienable power to create change, so too does every Canadian. In fact, the reason we were able to get girls on the 2018 agenda is because over 160,000 people from Canada and around the world rallied behind a petition calling on leaders to support a Declaration to Educate and Empower Girls in Crises.
They raised their voices and world leaders listened.
So this World Refugee Day, take the very sage, and timeless advice of Euripides: “Nothing is hopeless. We must hope for everything.”
*The girls’ names have been changed to protect their identity.