In the world’s poorest countries, life is hard for most of the population. However, it is even harder for the female half of the population. Women and girls living in deprived areas of the world are less likely than their male counterparts to be able to make decisions about their own lives, more likely to be married or with children at a young age, and less likely to have access to a solid education.
Evidence shows that when women and girls are empowered through learning, the lives of everyone in the community improve. Despite this, there are approximately 130 million school-age girls around the world being denied the opportunity for an education. The infographic attachment contains some further statistics for educating girls.
Education has the potential to alter the lives of millions for the better. Sir Peter Birkett has a long professional history in the education sector and is a supporter of the rights of girls everywhere to have access to an education.
Many global organisations are calling for new measures to be implemented that will create better access to education for millions of girls living in areas of poverty and conflict.
Funding for Education
One issue that can affect the educational opportunities open to girls is funding. Aid for education has dropped from 13% to 10% of the total funding for aid since 2002. Domestic spending on education often focuses on educating male children and there are not always enough provisions made to facilitate including girl children in educational environments.
The cost of not educating girls can be huge. For example, estimated figures from the World Bank show that official development assistance for the continent of Africa stood at $41 billion in 2016, yet approximately $63 billion was lost in capital wealth across just 12 nations, or half the population of Africa, due to girls being married at a young age and denied the chance to complete their education.
Data from CAMFED shows that women are more likely to reinvest in their families and communities when they are able to access employment and command higher earnings, which they can only do if they have an education.
Some of the economic benefits of educating girls are outlined in the PDF attachment to this post.
Early Marriage and Pregnancy
Some of the issues that lead to girls being forced to drop out of education before completing their schooling in sub-Saharan Africa are early marriage and teenage pregnancy. Around 40% of girls in this region are married before they reach the age of 18 and the region has the highest prevalence of teenage pregnancies in the world.
Rather than tackling this through better education, it is often the girls themselves who are stigmatised when they fall pregnant and many are forced into early marriages as a result. Educating young girls has been proven to be one of the best ways of preventing teen pregnancies and early marriage. Girls who have been allowed to complete their secondary education are as much as six times less likely to marry young.
Education for Health
Education ensures better health outcomes, with women who have been educated able to make more informed life choices. Educated women are less likely to have multiple children, and the children they do have are more likely to survive and be healthy due to the mother being better informed about areas such as nutrition, hygiene and immunisations.
The short video attachment explores the gender gap for global illiteracy rates.