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Trudeau announces Canada doubling money for girls’ education fund at Davos

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malala Yousafzai participate in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 25, 2018.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the stage at the World Economic Forum to announce that Canada is doubling the money it gives to an international fund that helps educate girls in developing countries.

During a panel discussion on women's empowerment on Thursday, alongside Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the Prime Minister said Canada will provide an additional $180-million to the Global Partnership Education Fund (GPE) in 2018-2021.

"Canada is committed to making sure young people around the world, especially girls, get an education," Mr. Trudeau told the gathering. "Empowering women through education is an essential pathway toward success."

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Ms. Yousafzai, who is an honorary Canadian citizen, had urged Canada to take a global lead on educating girls in a speech to Parliament last year.

"On behalf of 130 million girls, thank you," Ms. Yousafzia told Mr. Trudeau as she spoke about the challenges of educating girls and young women in countries where they are not regarded as full citizens.

Malala Yousafzai says world and business leaders need to play a role in educating and empowering women. The young activist spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Press

Related: Trump advisers take aim at Trudeau over trade stand in Davos

Read more: What is Davos, and what are Trudeau and Trump doing there? A guide to the summit so far

In Afghanistan, for example, there is a demand for female teachers, because mothers will not send their girls to schools where men teach, she said. Meanwhile, technical educators are needed in Lebanon, which has been flooded with Syrian refugees.

The activist spoke of the passion that she has witnessed in girls who have been given an opportunity to go to school, recounting an incident last week with a Syrian refugee in Lebanon.

"One girl said she wants to be an architect and I asked 'why?' " Ms. Yousafzia said. "And that girl said she wants to be an architect because the day she left Syria, she saw her country destroyed, and that day she decided to become an architect so one day she [could] rebuild her country."

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Ms. Yousafzai gained global attention for becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history in 2014. She survived a gunshot to the head from the Taliban in 2012 because she had advocated for girls education in Pakistan.

Since the attack, Ms. Yousafzai has used the star power of the Nobel Peace Prize to campaign for female education.

She set up the the Malala Fund in 2013, which helps girls in struggling countries access "free, safe and quality education," and contributes to the Global Education Fund.

Ms. Yousafzai said empowerment is only possible through education, and that she hopes other countries will follow the steps Canada is taking.

NGOS such as World Visions, Results Canada and Global Citizen applauded the Trudeau government for doubling Canadian funding for GPE. The agency partners with countries to provide quality education to about 870 million children around the world.

"Canada's commitment to global education today is a very important step towards preventing a lost generation of children – especially girls – caught up in the conflict and uncertainty," said World Vision policy vice-president Jamie McIntosh.

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Canada is the 10th largest donor to the GPE, which was founded at the G8 leaders' summit hosted by former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien in 2002.

Mr. Trudeau, who returns to Canada Thursday evening, pledged to make gender equality a major focus of the upcoming G7 leaders' summit in Charlevoix, Que.

On Tuesday in a keynote speech to the World Economic Forum, Mr. Trudeau announced that Melinda Gates and Canadian ambassador to France Isabelle Hudon will serve as co-chairs of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council.

"Everything the G7 does, all the meetings, all the commitments, all the initiatives that we partner in this year and hopefully into the future has a gender lens," Mr. Trudeau said. "Everything will be looked at in how it respects, empowers and enables women to be more successful."

The Prime Minister, who has been at the chic resort of Davos for three days, has spent most of his time lobbying U.S. corporate heavy hitters to defend NAFTA and to keep investing in Canada, despite President Trump's threat to scrap the continental treaty.

Mr. Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have used their keynote speeches at the gathering of the global elite to champion free trade and to warn of the dangers of protectionism.

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