Boris Johnson and Naomi Campbell launch global push to improve girls’ education

Foreign secretary and supermodel have come together to promote the eradication of illiteracy across the world

British supermodel Naomi Campbell arrives at the 2018 CFDA Fashion awards June 4, 2018 at The Brooklyn Museum in New York.  / AFP / ANGELA WEISS

The unlikely double act of supermodel Naomi Campbell and British foreign secretary Boris Johnson came together on Thursday to discuss and promote the importance of girls’ education.

The pair are backing the #LeaveNoGirlBehind campaign, which wants all girls across the world to receive at least 12 years of proper education by 2030. Ms Campbell has worked as a women’s empowerment envoy UNICEF, the United Nations’ programme that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

The model has been a long-time girls’ education activist and told Mr Johnson about her previous efforts to get the world’s poorest girls into school.

Mr Johnson said after the meeting that “Naomi is a force of nature, fizzing with energy and ideas, and it was great to hear her thoughts about how to galvanise the worlds of fashion and entertainment to really put the tragedy of the 131 million girls missing out on a quality education behind us.

“Education is a fundamental right for all girls and is manifestly in the global interest. It can help solve a multitude of the world’s problems. The UK is doing its bit but the rest of the world must follow suit.”

Committing the British government to the programme, Mr Johnson said that “we can and must challenge the sexism that says this is not a political issue, and we must break down the barriers that hold girls back. As a global community we can end female illiteracy to create a more stable, prosperous world for everyone”.

Ms Campbell said that “I had a great discussion with Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office today to discuss ways to improve education for the world’s most vulnerable girls.

“We both have a passionate belief that this is vital for the world to address. It’s great that Britain is leading by example and the Commonwealth is putting so much into this initiative.

“I recently organised a Fashion For Relief event for equality that included gender, so this really ties in with my beliefs.”

Mr Johnson’s has been attempting to build a global coalition of influencers in business, politics and entertainment to help stamp out illiteracy, and has met former British prime minister Gordon Brown and girls’ education activist and Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai in recent weeks.

He has also pressed this agenda with US president Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and the philanthropist Melinda Gates.

More than nine-tenths of the world’s poorest children leave school unable to read and write, and Britain has provided £400 million through the Department for International Development to enable over 1.5 million vulnerable girls to achieve the aim of 12 years of quality education.