Here are three facts that tell a troubling story:
- If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. That’s equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty.
- But 130 million girls are out of school. If they were a country, it would be the 10th largest country in the world.
- The situation is particularly dire in sub-Saharan Africa, where 29 million young and adolescent girls are out of school — and many will never set foot in a classroom.
The benefits of educating girls and women are far-reaching. We know that poverty hits women harder than men, and that preventing girls and women from reaching their full potential holds everybody back. (Conversely, when you lift up women and girls, you raise men and boys up, too!) The fight against extreme poverty is tied to the fight for gender equality, and that’s especially evident in education.
Improving girls’ access to education could deliver:
- Increased earning potential and growth: Educating women increases earning potential, which can help lift households out of poverty.
- Accelerated progress in rights: Girls and young women who are educated have a greater awareness of their rights, and greater confidence and freedom to make decisions that affect their lives. Plus, ensuring girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways of averting child marriage and early birth.
- Improved health outcomes: Education improves both the health of a woman and the health of her family. More education helps women make better decisions about health and disease factors such as prenatal care, basic hygiene, nutrition, and immunization — all of which are important to reducing the leading causes of death in children under 5.
- Increased agriculture productivity and food security: The ability to read and do mathematics allows farmers to adapt to new agricultural methods, cope with risk, and respond to market signals. A basic education helps farmers gain title to their land and apply for credit at banks.
So what’s the problem? Why aren’t more girls being educated? Well, the direct costs of education can be expensive, especially in areas where many people live on less than $1.90 a day. And because of the costs, in many contexts, if a choice must be made between sending a boy or girl to school, the boy will be the one getting an education. There are also cultural norms and values to consider, including the lack of value for girls’ education. Concerns about violence and poor infrastructure are also factors keeping girls out of school, as well as conflict and emergency situations —in which girls are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be out of school.
We have to act now. That’s why ONE is organising people across the country and around the world to make sure that girls and women are at the heart of our poverty-fighting strategy by promoting their access to education. Join us and call on world leaders to help decrease the number of girls out of school. It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s one the world needs to try to reach!