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Girls’ Education

Volume 641: debated on Tuesday 15 May 2018

2. What steps his Department is taking to support the delivery of girls’ education throughout the world. (905282)

If every girl in the world had 12 years of quality education, this world would be infinitely safer, vastly more prosperous and better, which is why education for girls is at the heart of Government policy.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, but I am concerned that, according to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary school age, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, will never enter a classroom. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that tackling this issue will continue to be a top priority for global Britain?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and the statistics are truly horrifying. There are countries around the world, including in sub-Saharan Africa, where female illiteracy is running at 60%, 70% or sometimes 80%, which is why the UK is in the lead in campaigning at the UN, the G7 and the G20 for focus on this issue. That is also why the Prime Minister announced a further £212 million for girls’ education at the recent Commonwealth summit.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that, in many parts of the developing world, educational institutions and orphanages are not quite what they seem? Children are taken into them and trafficked, instead of getting an education. Will he look into that?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that problem, which is of course well known to the Prime Minister, who has campaigned on human trafficking and modern slavery for many years. We certainly co-ordinate with the Home Office to tackle the problem that the hon. Gentleman describes.

Girls who do not receive education are more likely to become victims of human trafficking, early marriage and gender-based violence. Will the Foreign Secretary update the House on what he is doing not only to support girls’ education, but in particular to join up the strategies for ending violence against women and girls?

We continually work to tackle not just female illiteracy and innumeracy but the associated problems, including gender-based violence, and we work continually on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict. I recently had a meeting with Lord Hague, whom colleagues will remember championed that issue to great effect.

What discussions has the Foreign Secretary had with the Government of Pakistan about girls’ education in that country? What assessment has he made of that Government’s track record?

I am proud to say that I have had repeated conversations with the Government of Pakistan about the UK contribution to the challenge that they face. As I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows, 66% of adult women in Pakistan are illiterate. Through the Department for International Development, the UK is trying to tackle that issue, and I think that 6 million girls in the Punjab have been educated thanks to the UK’s generosity.