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(CNN) In the movie “Hidden Figures,” Janelle Monáe’s character Mary Jackson petitions a Virginia State Court judge for the right to enroll in engineering classes at the local all-white high school. She reminds the judge that he was the first in his family to join the Armed Forces and to attend college. Now he can help her be the first female engineer at NASA. “Your Honor,” Jackson says, “out of all the cases you’re going to hear today, which one is going to matter one hundred years from now? Which one is going to make you the first?”

“You are the first,” is a phrase that the two of us, despite living in starkly different countries, have heard more times than we can remember. It resonates for us both as the world marks International Women’s Day. Most notably, we are the first women appointed to our respective cabinet positions. A woman in a leadership role is a rarity in our regions, let alone women like us with economics and computer science backgrounds. No wonder: today, in 2017, 130 million school-age girls around the world are not even in school. The main reason? Existing financial resources for education, especially for girls, both within countries and by multilateral and bilateral donors, are woefully inadequate. We must, as a global community, commit to reversing troubling trends and improving outcomes when it comes to girls’ education — and education for all children.

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