Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, famously called for the education of girls and women in the early 1900s. In 1905, he established several schools, which admitted girls. In 1945, he said that "If I had two children, and one was a boy and the other a girl, and if I could afford to educate only one, I would have no hesitation in giving higher education to the girl."
For over a century, the AKDN has been investing in access to quality education for girls. Over the last 30 years, more than 10 million girls and young women across all levels of education have directly benefited from the AKDN’s efforts—in Afghanistan as well as Tanzania, Egypt as well as Pakistan. Today, almost 70% of the graduates at the Aga Khan University are women.
Education may start in the schools, but it continues in an array of educational institutions, from primary through to tertiary education levels, and then beyond in hospitals, schools, hotels, businesses. Each AKDN institution is designed to nurture the home-grown talent that will create societies in which everyone, regardless of sex, can realise their full potential.
“What these developments mean,” said His Highness the Aga Khan at the opening of the Academy in Hyderabad, India, “is human resources have become more important than natural resources in determining the wealth of a society.”
Women are a key to successful societies. For example, when 10 percent more girls go to school, the GDP of a country increases by an average of 3%. Women spend 90% of their earned income on their families. Evidence shows that corporations run by women are more focused on sustainability.
Developing those home-grown human resources for developing societies, many of them women, are central to the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). By creating ethical scientists, nurses, doctors, pathologists, teachers, professors, development professionals, administrators, bankers and businessmen – to name a few – the AKDN is creating the human resources needed by developing countries to take the next step up the economic and social ladder.