Girls’ education in spotlight as Stephen Colbert and Norwegian PM ‘battle’ on Twitter

Girls' education

It was the heavyweight bout of the year. Stephen Colbert versus Erna Solberg. The comedian and host of American TV’s The Late Show against the Prime Minister of Norway.

And the winner was … girls’ education!

These unlikely opponents swapped blows in a light-hearted exchange this week. Here’s how the action unfolded.

Stephen is the host of the Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park on September 26.

On August 17, Stephen makes this video for the Global Citizen website. At the one minute 30 mark, he explains why it is important to support funding for the Global Partnership for Education. He says giving girls equal access to education worldwide is “the right thing to do”.

Around the world, 31 million girls don’t go to primary school and 62 million miss out on secondary school – because of factors such as child marriage, child labour and discrimination. Achieving gender equality and empowering girls and women are among the new Sustainable Development Goals to be agreed by the United Nations in September. A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five and one additional year of schooling can increase a woman’s earnings by up to 20%.

In his video, Stephen tells people to “invade Norway” – by sending tweets to Erna. He ends the film by tucking into a plate of lutefisk while listening to Norwegian death metal.

And he backs up his call by making the same plea to his 8.7 million Twitter followers.

Why Norway? Because the Scandinavian country already is a world leader in funding global education. It hosted the Oslo Education Summit in July – at which major decisions were made affecting the campaign to get every child into school. Stephen reasons that where Norway goes, the rest of the world will follow.

So hundreds of thousands of tweets and emails flood in for the Norwegian PM. She says: “Thank you for your messages. You’ve managed to clog my Twitter feed.” And she makes this YouTube reply to Stephen.

She tells him: “But even the Vikings of Norway can’t do it alone, Stephen. That’s why we encourage other countries, private companies and key partners to do more.”

The American TV star is delighted by her response. He tweets this message.

And then Global Citizen confirms this breaking news about the New York festival.

So the cause of girls’ education gets a worldwide audience thanks to this bizarre exchange. You can learn more about girls’ education here. And if you don’t know what lutefisk is, here’s good old Wikipedia with the answer.

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