The World Bank plans to set aside $2.5 billion during the next five years for projects promoting female education in low-income countries, first lady Michelle Obama announced Wednesday in Washington.
She said the investment is a powerful statement of belief in the power of education to transform the lives and prospects of millions of girls worldwide, as well as the prospects of their families, their communities, and their countries. It is also "an affirmation of these girls' extraordinary promise," she added.
Development experts say education is one of the most effective ways to foster economic development. A World Bank study found that a woman's lifelong income increased by 18 percent for every year she attended school.
"While today's announcement is tremendously exciting and has the potential to be truly transformational, it is also, in many ways, obvious, right, ladies?” the first lady said. “Research on the value of girls' education is overwhelming and irrefutable. ... They raise healthier families, with lower infant mortality rates, higher vaccination rates. And by contributing more to the labor market, they can even boost their entire countries' economies."
This education project is not the World Bank's first for females.
A program it operated between 1994 and 2008 led to girls overtaking boys as the majority in Bangladeshi schools. A $500 million project in India has put 4.3 million more girls in secondary schools since 2012. Similar projects have been launched in Nigeria and Yemen, also yielding positive results.
Michelle Obama is promoting the "Let Girls Learn" initiative, which she started with President Barack Obama last year. The initiative strives to provide adolescent girls, particularly in developing countries, with access to education.