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Speech: Educate our daughters with the same care that we educate our sons

first_img Follow the Foreign Secretary on Twitter @BorisJohnson and Facebook Media enquiries For journalists Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Email [email protected] Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn For centuries human beings have been in search of a panacea, a cure for all ills, a philosophers’ stone that could turn dross into gold.After two years as Foreign Secretary, I have concluded that we could go a long way towards solving many of the world’s most serious problems – from infant mortality to unemployment to unsustainable population growth – if only we could provide every girl in the world with at least 12 years of quality education.At this moment, 130 million girls are not in the classroom. Female illiteracy in some countries exceeds 60 per cent, not least because of bigoted fanatics who do all they can to stop girls from going to school.In northern Nigeria, the terrorists of Boko Haram are waging a demented campaign against female education, raiding schools and abducting children. When I visited Borno state last year, I met girls who had been told they would be shot if they dared learn to read, as the Taliban shot Malala.I am lost in admiration for those who defy these threats and press on with their studies – and for the teachers who are brave enough to help. But the reality is that almost 800 million adults across the world cannot read or write and two thirds of them are women.Think of the squandered talent and the opportunity cost to humanity contained in that figure. But just imagine what we could achieve if we turned this upside down and ensured that every girl received the education they deserve.If all girls went to secondary school, then a United Nations study has found that infant mortality would be cut in half, saving three million young lives every year. About 12 million children would not have their growth stunted by malnutrition.The future wages of girls would rise by 12 per cent for every extra year in the classroom, a tonic for the economies of poor countries that would create jobs and strike a blow against the Boko Harams and the other maladjusted chauvinist fanatics.The conclusion is obvious: educating our daughters with the same care that we educate our sons is the single most powerful spur to development and progress.This year, the British Government has devoted an extra £500 million to female education, benefiting 1.5 million girls around the world. At the Commonwealth summit in London in April, all 53 countries endorsed the goal of 12 years of quality education for every girl.But the material benefits should not be the sole or even the primary reason why we must achieve this target. It’s not just that universal female education will make us more prosperous and expand our GDPs – though it will.We should educate girls because it is manifestly right in and of itself. We can build the schools and train the teachers and surmount all of the other barriers: in the end, it is only a question of priorities and of will.Further informationlast_img read more


Bikes help New Yorkers ride out coronavirus lockdown

first_imgWhen America’s oldest bike shop opened, the Spanish flu was ravaging New York. More than a century later, it’s helping residents work and stay sane as cycling takes on a vital role during the coronavirus pandemic.While almost all stores were ordered to close for the Big Apple’s COVID-19 shutdown, bike shops like Bellitte Bicycles were deemed essential businesses and allowed to stay open.They have proven a godsend for New Yorkers needing to commute to hospitals, migrant workers delivering takeouts and cooped-up residents desperate to escape their cramped apartments for some solitary exercise. Bellitte Bicycles is the oldest continuously owned bike shop in the United States, according to Bellitte, who is the third generation of his family to own the store.It opened the year a flu pandemic killed about 30,000 New Yorkers, operated during the Great Depression, World War Two, the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Sandy, which caused devastation in 2012.”We’ve seen it all. The coronavirus pandemic is like coming full circle,” Bellitte, 56, told AFP, adding that he thinks this is the worst crisis yet “because of the uncertainty.”For many workers, New York’s shutdown, which Governor Andrew Cuomo extended until April 29, has made them rely on a bicycle for the first time. Oliver Bucknor — 50 years old and originally from the Caribbean island of Jamaica — lost his job as a van driver when the deadly outbreak started spreading across the city early last month.He bought an old bike from his landlord for $250 and brought it into Bellitte’s for a tune-up before embarking on a new job delivering food.”A bike is a lifeline for a lot of people,” he told AFP. “It allows me to keep making a living.”Other residents are making use of Citi Bikes, New York’s popular bicycle share scheme, which the government has temporarily made free to overwhelmed health care staff.  Emily Rogers, a 27-year-old social worker, started cycling the half-hour to and from the public hospital where she works on a Citi Bike after she became concerned about using the subway.”It’s nice to be outside for a little bit and not feel guilty about it,” Rogers told AFP, adding that she’ll probably stick with cycling once New York reopens.Citi Bike has expanded the cleaning of its bikes. Staff placed at popular docking stations disinfect the two-wheelers when they are returned by customers.Rides increased as the virus first started to cause concern but they fell once residents were ordered to work from home later in March.During the lockdown, the most popular docks have switched from being outside train and bus stations to near hospitals, suggesting medical staff and relatives visiting COVID-19 patients are relying on Citi Bikes.”This is not a normal ridership pattern,” a Citi Bikes spokesperson told AFP.For other New Yorkers, cycling is a way to stay healthy and kill the boredom of a weeks-long lockdown, even if it means pedalling without friends. “It’s good for your body, it’s good for your soul, it’s good for your mind,” said Peter Storey, 64-year-old president of the New York Cycle Club.Robin Lester-Kenton, 41, needed to get her sons — aged seven and five — out of the house and has been taking advantage of an empty basketball court in Brooklyn to teach them how to cycle.”There is nothing like a magical open space right now,” she told AFP.Doom and gloom abounds too, though, as the coronavirus cripples bike tour companies, with operations halted due to the ban on social gathering and an absence of tourists. John McKee, owner of Brooklyn Giro tours, estimates the crisis has put his company back two years.”Last year we were all celebrating and going out for steak dinners. This year it’s like we’re all trying to figure out food stamps,” he said.Back at Bellitte Bicycles, Bellitte says it will stay open for as long as they remain healthy themselves. “If one of our guys shows symptoms we’ll have to close.”Topics : “Business has been good but it’s also about serving the community,” said co-owner Sal Bellitte, whose grandfather opened the shop, situated in the Jamaica area of Queens, in 1918.As inhabitants skip buses and subway trains due to social distancing and enjoy streets devoid of usual traffic, bike shops are one of the few businesses doing a decent trade.”Business is booming,” said 29-year-old Paris Correa, who recently started working at Bike Stop, another outlet in Queens. “I was hired because the owner knew it was going to be crazy.”Residents are getting old bikes spruced up or buying new ones to compensate for canceled Pilates classes and closed gyms while delivery men stop by to get brakes or gears fixed.last_img read more