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DEDICATED TO KEEPING GIRLS IN SCHOOL

When 14-year old Amina Yusuf realised that her uncle was trying to convince her father that it was time for her to marry, she did everything in her power to persuade her parents otherwise and begged them to rather let her continue with her education. Fortunately for Amina, they agreed. This, however, is not the reality for most of the young girls in Zaria, Northern Nigeria. In fact, this is not the reality for 130 million girls around the world who are not in school today. Early childhood marriages, poverty, war and mismanaged government funds play a huge role in depriving girls of an education. Instead of attending school, girls go out hawking to contribute to the household income, or help their mothers look after their younger siblings. If they get married, their 13 or 14-year old bodies aren't mature enough to safely sustain pregnancies, resulting in a huge increase in maternal mortality and morbidity rates.

Yet, by educating girls, the benefits swing the pendulum far in the other direction. Educating a girl makes a significant contribution to the wellbeing of not just her family, but also her entire country. It is a basic human right for all children, including girls, to have an education. An education protects girls from child labour, child marriages and, by implication, death during childbirth. When Malala Yousafzai was violently attacked by extremists for speaking out against the ban on female education in her country, it served as an even greater motivation to continue her campaign. She co-founded Malala Fund alongside her father with the aim of helping girls stay in school. Malala Fund invests in education champions in communities and regions where the most girls miss out on secondary education. These include Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and countries housing Syrian refugees, and they are working hard at extending their reach even further.

Partnering with a bank like Citi that has a global reach, especially in the conflict-ridden areas in which Malala Fund works, allows them to expand their network significantly. It is crucial to their success that they forge solid partnerships. Citi enables this success and thereby increases the amount of education champions reached by Malala Fund. Habiba Mohamed in Nigeria is one such champion. Working with the Center for Girls Education, she provides girls with safe spaces. Trained mentors teach girls numeracy, literacy and life skills, and special focus is placed on building the girls' confidence and self-esteem. This helps them understand that they have value and empowers them to negotiate the marriages suggested by their families in a culturally appropriate manner.

An educated girl will ensure that her children also receive an education. She becomes independent and doesn't have to rely on others for her survival. Her talents, ideas and passions are cultivated. She could have the solution to climate change, or she could be the next Nobel Prize winner. If one girl with an education can change the world, imagine what 130 million can do.