Turning the Page on a Global Problem!
Over the past 50 years, the world has seen a revolution in women’s access to education. Since 1970, the global average school life expectancy--the number of years a girl will stay in school--grew from 6.7 years to 12 years. In developing countries, the jump was from 2.8 to 8.9 years! (UNESCO) Even with this progress though, only 66% of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education and just 45% of countries have achieved gender parity at the secondary level. (Unicef)
So, what does this mean for all of us? What would be the impact of reaching full gender parity— even at the secondary level—mean for women across the world? Well, it could have an enormous impact. Here are just some of the ways giving girls access to education changes their lives, the lives of their children, and their communities as a whole:
For each additional year of secondary education, girls’ risk of marrying as a child and having a child before age 18 decreases by 6 percentage points. (United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative)
If the world were to achieve universal secondary education, child marriage could virtually be eliminated. (Right now, only one in three girls completes lower secondary school in low-income countries.)(United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative )
Ending child marriage could generate more than $500 billion in benefits annually around the globe. (World Bank)
Children of literate mothers are over 50% more likely to live past the age of 5, and a mother’s education reduces the likelihood of her dying in childbirth. (Right to Education)
One year of secondary education for girls can lead to as much as a 25% increase in wages later in life. (Right to Education)
Women tend to reinvest 90% of their income into their families. (Right to Education)
And, the positive influence of educating girls doesn’t stop there. Gender equitable school systems benefit boys, too. They can keep boys from entering into harmful, traditionally masculine behaviors like child labor, gang violence, and recruitment into armed groups. (Unicef)
So, what’s keeping us from ensuring that every girl has access to education and able to make it through secondary school?
Poverty is the primary factor in limiting girls’ access to education. Beyond the cost of school fees, costs like transportation, uniforms, and supplies can be too expensive for families. In addition, parents often rely on the girls to help support the home or are dependent on their income, so sending girls to school can be costly to a family. (Global Citizen)
Another leading disruptor to a girls’ education is child marriage. There are 700 million women around the world who were married as girls. Child marriage occurs disproportionately in developing countries, for reasons ranging from cultural traditions to economic strain on a girls’ family. (Global Citizen)
Factors like these, as well as gender-based violence, regions of conflict, and cultural norms are further compounded by the stigmas around menstruation. Menstruation is stigmatized in cultures around the world and the cultural shame, and/or lack of access to sanitary products and sanitation leads many girls to miss school, or drop out altogether. (Global Citizen)
What can we do to remove these barriers for girls?
Luckily, we’re not alone in recognizing the importance of unlocking the full potential of half of the world’s population! Organizations across the globe are hard at work educating communities on the importance of access to education for women and tackling issues like poverty, child marriage, and period stigma. Organizations like the UN, UNICEF, The Malala Fund, and CARE are working to tackle the root causes that keep girls from accessing life-changing education!