Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, UNESCO's Special Envoy for the Advancement of Girls' and Women's Education, delivers a speech in English at the Global Education First Initiative event at the United Nations in New York on Sept 26, 2015. [Photo/UN Sina Weibo]
Director-general Bokova, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join for this important initiative as the UN marks its 70th anniversary.
Education is very close to my heart. My father grew up in a small village in China. In those days, not many villagers could read. So my father opened a night school to teach them how to read. With his help, many people learned to write their own names. With his help, many people learned to read newspapers for the first time. With his help, many women were able to teach their children how to read. As his daughter, I know what education means to the people, especially those without it.
After generations of hard work, China has come a long way in education. I, myself, am a beneficiary of that progress. Otherwise, I would never have become a soprano and professor of music. I’m following in my father’s footstep by teaching at the China Conservatory of Music to help continue China’s success story.
I want to thank director-general Bokova and UNESCO for naming me Special Envoy for Girls’ and Women’s Education. I’m truly honored to work with the UN and do something for global education. I have visited many schools around the world and seen first-hand how much more we can do on education.
Education is about women and girls. It is important for girls to go to school because they will become their children’s first teachers someday. But women still account for over half of the world’s poor in population and 60% of adults who cannot read. Education is crucial in addressing such inequalities. In China, the Spring Buds Education Program has helped over 3 million girls go back to school. Many of them have finished university education and are doing well at work.
Education is about equality. In poor countries and regions, the number of school drop-outs is astonishing. We call for more educational resources to these places.
Education is about the young people. Young people are the future. Education is important because it not only gives young people acknowledge and skills but also helps them become responsible citizens. As UNESCO’s Special Envoy and mother myself, my commitment to education for all will never change.
Many years ago, my father made small difference in his village. Together, we can make a big difference in the world.
I was once asked about my Chinese dream. I said I hope all children especially girls can have good access to education. This is my Chinese dream. I believe, one day, education first will no longer be a dream, it will be a reality enjoyed by every young woman on this planet.
Thank you very much!