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Actors, athletes speak up for girls' education

By Sandy Cohen

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 20 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this June 11, 2011 file photo, U.S. singer Alicia Keys plays piano as she performs during a concert at Hall of Congress in Paris. Dozens of actors and athletes are joining a U.S. government effort to support girls’ education worldwide. Jennifer Garner, Keys, Anne Hathaway, DeAndre Jordan, Tyler Perry and Kelly Osborne are among the stars explaining the importance of education for girls around the globe in a video premiering Friday, June 20, 2014, for the new Let Girls Learn initiative.

Francois Mori, file, Associated Press

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LOS ANGELES — Dozens of actors and athletes are joining a U.S. government effort to support girls' education worldwide.

Jennifer Garner, Susan Sarandon, Alicia Keys, Anne Hathaway, Tyler Perry and pro basketball player DeAndre Jordan are among the stars speaking out about the importance of education for girls around the globe in an online video for the new Let Girls Learn initiative.

"A threat to girls' education anywhere is a threat to progress everywhere," ''Modern Family" star Julie Bowen says in the two-minute video, which premiered Friday.

The stars were moved to make the video after the recent kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the Taliban's 2012 attempted assassination of Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist Malala Yousafzai. The U.S. Agency for International Development is supporting the effort with $201 million in new education programs announced Friday that will help provide safe learning opportunities for girls in Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Jordan and Guatemala.

"All around the world, people want to change the injustices but often times don't know exactly what they can do about it," Keys said in a statement. "I really wanted to participate in this (video) because empowering women changes the course of our world."

The Let Girls Learn website offers various ways for individuals and organizations to get involved.

Research shows that an educated girl is more likely to educate her children. A girl with a basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV. An additional year of education can increase a woman's earning potential by as much as 25 percent. More than 60 million girls around the world are not in school.

"An educated girl really is the key to a healthy, more stable, more prosperous country," said Cathy Russell, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues. "Educating girls is really one of the best investments we can make."

This is also true in the United States, notes Soledad O'Brien, who also appears in the video.

"Investing in girls can actually move the needle in communities," she said, "...and can actually benefit boys, because girls are the mothers of boys."

Research shows that countries where women constitute at least 30 percent of political representation are more egalitarian and democratic. Women comprise about 20 percent of American elected officials in the House and Senate.

Nick Cannon got involved with Let Girls Learn because becoming a dad made him a more passionate education advocate

"It's really about equal opportunity around the world," he said, "and at the same time knowing how much anyone's life is furthered with the proper education."

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy. Online: http://www.usaid.gov/letgirlslearn

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