MIPTV: Gordon Brown on Using TV to Educate World's Girls

Gordon Brown Ban Ki-Moon H
United Nations

"Girls education is one of the great human rights issues of our time," says the former U.K. Prime Minister, who will speak to international TV industry in Cannes on Wednesday.

CANNES – Television and the media have not always been kind to Gordon Brown but now the former U.K. Prime Minister is embracing the power of TV. On Wednesday, Brown will address the MIPTV conference in Cannes in a bid to get the international television industry to support the education of girls around the world.

"I think education, and girls education in particular is one of the great human rights issues of our time," Brown told THR in a telephone interview. "The fact that (in some countries) girls are maimed, attacked simply for wanting to go to school makes it an issue that demands urgent consideration."

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Brown is the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Global Education and is coming to MIPTV to promote the UN's Global Education First Initiative, which aims to get every child in the world -- girls and boys -- into school by 2015.

He will be joined on stage by Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting to attend school and who became a figurehead for the right of girls to education.

"This attempted assassination, which was a huge television story, led to outrage around the world and to the biggest petition ever to the U.N., with more than 3 million signatures," says Brown. "It caused the Pakistan government to change its policy."

Brown argues that while education does not "carry the drama of, for example, famine, illness or disease" it is key in breaking the cycle of poverty in developing countries.

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In addition to the former Prime Minister, the high-profile MIPTV conference will include presentations by David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, which is supporting the UN's push to use TV to transform global learning; Gucci Chief Marketing Officer Robert Triefus, who has launched a global campaign focused on empowering girls and women; and social entrepreneur and former Microsoft executive John Wood, founder of Room to Read, which promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries. United Nations’ Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon will introduce the session with a video message.

The UN's goals, to get millions of children into education in the next 1,000 days, are nothing if not ambitious. The education platform is part of the UN's so-called Millennium Development Goals, which also include pledges to eliminate extreme poverty, halt the spread of malaria and HIV/AIDS and reduce child mortality by two-thirds.

The Millennium project has been controversial, with many of its goals no where near completion. Brown, however, insists the education target is achievable.

"It only costs $100 a year to educate an African child and we have two years and nine months to do it," he says, "it is not an impossible goal at all."