UNESCO just released its report, Sustainable Development: Post 2015 Begins With Education, that takes a look at the critical importance of education on the post-2015 agenda. The core stance in the report portends that without greater access to education poverty eradication will become increasingly difficult to achieve by 2030. The betterment of women’s and girls’ lives across the globe, most specifically in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia depends greatly on their equal access to quality education.
In the poorest countries, 2.9 million girls are married by 15. If girls in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia simply have a secondary education child marriage would decrease by 69%. Secondary education also causes a delay in young girls having their first child. Young girls disproportionately die in childbirth. Education will, in turn, cause a reduction in not only maternal health, but also in newborn deaths. In fact, Brazil saw a a 70 percent reduction in its fertility rate because it became a country priority to improve schools and education.
Educated girls have children later and smaller families overall. They are less likely to die during pregnancy or birth, and their offspring are more likely to survive past the age of five and go on to thrive at school and in life. Women who attended school are better equipped to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, deadly diseases, trafficking and sexual exploitation. – Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Graça Machel, President, Foundation for Community Development & Founder, Graça Machel Trust.
Data shows that education for girls shows improvements in both early marriage as well as early pregnancies. But, it’s secondary education that dramatically improves the lives of young girls. The more education a girl has also dictates her family size and her understanding of family planning access and services when she does decide to get married.
Secondary education could also effectively reduce the fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, each woman has on average 6.7 children. When women are educated they tend to have far less children, 3.9. Secondary education reduces the fertility rate by 37 percent. Additionally, women with more education tend to feed their children better and can reduce stunting in children.
It has been said many times that education is the key to a better life for everyone not just women and girls, but the positive ramifications create better families, healthier children, and a more educated and productive society. Women and girls with less education also are at great chance to be subject to domestic violence, live in poverty, and a lack a say over household finances and decision-making.
How To Increase Secondary Education for Girls
It would be a global game changer if access to secondary education could be a magic bullet, but, of course, providing secondary education for all girls around the world isn’t as easy as it may seem.
One way to increase education is through cash transfers so girls can pay for school fees and books, a factor that tends to create a barrier to educational attainment. According to the World Bank, some countries are also piloting projects that pay parents who keep their daughters in school. Countries need to also make education a priority with financial investments. That means, countries need to scale up schools and hire more teachers particularly in rural areas where proximity to a school can be quite far.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider