“There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women. When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, whole countries.”
Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, 2004
Important as individual outcomes are, we know that educating girls has a ripple effect, benefiting their families, communities and wider society.
An education is empowering – it provides young women with the skills, experience and knowledge to make genuine and informed choices about the kinds of lives they wish to lead. This is not a luxury – the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1981) both establish it as a basic human right.
That an education might give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls a better chance of a healthier, happier and more independent future should be enough of a reason to support their education. But there are also flow on benefits for our society as a whole.
An educated and empowered woman has the information, skills and confidence she needs to be a better parent, a contributor to society and a community leader. These outcomes are not just good for her and her family, but for our whole community.
As recognised in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs report into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education – The Power of Education: From Surviving to Thriving (2017) – there is a serious lack of equity in the funding provided to programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls, compared to the funding provided to programs for boys.
Over recent years there has been significant investment in supporting the education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys, resulting in some positive outcomes. Unfortunately, there has not been a matching level of investment in supporting the education of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
This is despite the fact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls face just as many barriers to completing school and moving into employment and a positive future as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys do.
Stars Foundation was established in 2015 to address this inequity. Since then, Stars has been offering specially tailored, evidence-based mentoring and support programs for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Our goals are closely aligned to the education and employment targets outlined in the Closing the Gap strategy.