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At Tokyo summit, Malala Yousafzai urges world leaders to expand educational opportunities for women

Visiting Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai urged world leaders Saturday to further promote the empowerment of women through education and financial support.

Her call came on the first day of the joint World Assembly for Women and Women 20 (W20) summit, which was held in Tokyo with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in attendance.

“If you want to create a world where all women and girls can shine, where women are driving innovation, or succeed in government and business, our leaders must invest in girls’ education,” Malala said in her opening keynote speech.

“This week, I’m asking G20 leaders to commit new funding to girls’ education” and for the development of the “skills that they need to prepare for the future workforce,” she added.

In his opening speech, Abe echoed the need to invest in women’s education and made clear his commitment to make it a high priority in the agenda for this year’s Group of 20 summit, to be held in Osaka in June.

Speaking of Japan’s commitment to making education accessible for young women in developing countries, Abe said that Japan will “provide high quality education and opportunities for resource development to 4 million women in developing countries by 2020.”

“Better education is not just about social policy, but also crucial to sustainable economic growth,” he added, referring to the findings of a World Bank report released last year claiming that the global cost of women who cannot complete 12 years of education amounts to $15 trillion to $30 trillion in lost lifetime earnings.

“I will be raising this issue at the G20 to make sure with other leaders that as the G20, we envision a world where all women across the globe can have access to good education for 12 years,” he said.

Representatives of the W20 network also submitted to Abe a communique that endorsed previous G20 declarations and made new suggestions on how to improve gender equality and empower women.

In the World Economic Forum’s annual World Gender Gap Index in 2018, Japan was ranked 110 out of 149 countries, although it had moved up four spots from the previous year mainly due to narrower wage gaps and an increase in women’s employment.

This year’s communique has a particular focus on women and technology, and pushes for the “inclusive and responsible use of all new technologies, including AI … to ensure no woman is left behind,” and touches on the need to “close the digital gender gap” to ensure “women can exercise their digital rights.”

The communique also suggests putting governance mechanisms for the G20 in place to make sure the declarations and commitments are being met, as well as removing “systemic legal and social barriers in the labor market.”

Other suggestions included encouraging the financial inclusion of women, such as access to investment and promoting entrepreneurship, pushing for life-long learning and gender equality in schools, as well as ending violence against women and girls in all areas of society, including online.

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