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A World of Schoolgirls

If one had to pick the single thing that we must do, above all else, to improve the world, the choice would be simple: “educate girls.” Educate a boy, and you educate a person; educate a girl, you educate a family and benefit an entire community.

NEW DELHI – One of the more difficult questions I found myself being asked when I was a United Nations under-secretary-general, especially when addressing a general audience, was: “What is the single most important thing that can be done to improve the world?”

It’s the kind of question that tends to bring out the bureaucrat in even the most direct of communicators, as one feels obliged to explain the complexity of the challenges confronting humanity: how no imperative can be singled out over other goals; how the struggle for peace, the fight against poverty, and the battle to eradicate disease must all be waged side by side; and so on – mind-numbingly.

Then I learned to cast caution to the wind and venture an answer to this most impossible of questions. If I had to pick the one thing that we must do above all else, I now offer a two-word mantra: “educate girls.”

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