Much of yesterday’s Women Deliver 2013 conversation centered around education for girls. Without at least a primary education girls in poor and middle income countries cannot properly contribute to their country’s economy nor to their household.
Girls who are fortunate to prolong marriage are able to attend school longer than if they are married away by their family. Being married off instead of staying in school poses a huge challenge because once girls are married off it becomes increasingly difficult for them to become educated. And, girls face the often insurmountable challenge of having children even though they are not properly equipped to deliver a baby causing many to die during childbirth. In fact, the number one cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 – 19 is childbirth says the World Health Organization.
According to UNESCO 66 million girls are out of school globally. Just last week I was in Delhi and time and time again we heard that while boys are often allowed to go to school and encouraged to do so (unless they are street children) girls are often discouraged from going to school and instead are needed for domestic duties or to help their families scratch out a living in the family business whether that is selling vegetables on the side of the road or being hired out as domestic help. Girls as young at 14 can work as domestics in India.
When girls are not educated everyone suffers. Countries suffer from an inadequate workforce. It also leads to a continuum of poverty for many families where girls grow into women who are illiterate with little to no skills. A girl’s education provides a 20% increase in income for them over their lifetime per the World Bank. Additionally, educated mothers are twice as likely to send their children to school.
When we were in India last week we saw many girls in the schools we visited. It is my hope that those girls are able to continue their education and graduate. Education is one of the silver bullets for a better future for them.