The G7 Foreign and Development Ministers meeting in London this week agreed to invest $15 billion in development finance over the next two years to help women in developing countries find work, create resilient companies, and respond to COVID-19's devastating economic effects.

They'll also pledge to meet new global goals by 2026, including enrolling 40 million more girls in school and having 20 million more girls reading by the age of ten in low and lower middle income countries.

Investing in girls' education is one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty, develop economies, save lives, and rebuild after Covid-19. A child with a reading mother is 50% more likely to live beyond the age of 5 years, is twice as likely to attend school, and is 50% more likely to be immunised.

The $15 billion is for the 2X Challenge, a G7 Development Finance Institutions [DFIs] collaboration that began in 2018. It uses DFI and MDB funding to provide financing to female-owned and staffed companies, goods, and services that favour women, in particular, thereby promoting female economic empowerment.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionately negative effect on women and girls, resulting in lost school time, decreased access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, an increase in gender-based abuse, and an increased risk of job loss.

Now, these new commitments by the world's leading democracies, led by the United Kingdom, place gender equality at the centre of global cooperation to recover from COVID-19.

Since its inception in 2018, the 2X Challenge, which is named after the multiplier impact of investing in women, has devoted more than $6 billion in capital to investments that benefit women and girls in developing countries.

The programme aims to help more women-owned companies succeed by increasing access to better-paying jobs and more flexibility. PEG Africa, a solar power company delivering home systems to consumers in West Africa in which the UK's CDC has invested $12.5 million, is one of the projects funded under the scheme. As a result of the 2X Challenge, the number of women in leadership roles in Ghana has increased from 22 percent to 44 percent.

In the COVID-19 recovery, the G7 will also recommit to collective action to uphold and protect everyone's sexual and reproductive health and rights, scale up gender-based violence prevention and elimination, and ensure women's voices are heard at local, national, and international levels.

Foreign and Development Ministers from the G7 countries of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union, are meeting in London starting today [Monday] for two days of talks on a variety of topics. This is their first in-person meeting in two years. Australia, India, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the ASEAN Chair have also been invited to participate in parts of the meeting as guarantors.