Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Education: It's Good for the World's Girls!

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

It’s back to school time, and my two eldest nieces, Sarah and Emily, just started kindergarten. I hope they're like me. I loved school. I always got bored about halfway through the summer and was more than ready to go back to class. I was a weird kid.

But around the world, not all girls are as lucky as I was, or as Sarah and Emily are. Even if they want to be in school, it may simply not be an option. Some families refuse to let their daughters attend school to protect them from the religious taboo of being seen by men. In other places, girls don’t have the necessary sanitary supplies, facilities or even pain relievers needed to attend class confidently during menstruation. In other nations, educating daughters is simply seen as a luxury families can't afford.
Nepalese students walk with their teacher. (Dmitry A. Mottl/Foter)

Here are a few eye-opening facts from The Girl Effect. Share them with girls (and boys!) you know:

  • 600 million girls live in the developing world. One in four are not attending school.
  • 70% of youths who are not attending school are girls.
  • The current global population of girls ages 10 to 24 is the largest ever – and will peak in the next 10 years or so. The choices they make will affect all of us.
  • When a girl receives at least seven years of school, on average she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children –  and that’s important for her health, her children’s health and the health of the planet.
  • Moms in developing nations who receive more education have healthier babies and children.
  • Educating girls pays off. Women and girls reinvest 90 cents of every dollar they earn back into their families. It’s important to educate boys and men, too, but they only reinvest 30 to 40 cents in their families.

So I know what you’re thinking: “That’s all very interesting, Amy, but why on Earth is a family planning advocacy organization blogging about keeping girls in school?” 

First of all, there’s nothing like an unplanned pregnancy to put a girl’s education on hold – or derail it permanently. That’s true whether it happens on the other side of the globe, or right here in the United States. If girls are having sex, affordable and appropriate contraception can help prevent unintended pregnancies – and unintended consequences.

Secondly, when those girls grow into women and are able to space and limit their pregnancies, they have more time – and money – to invest in each child. When resources are adequate, families are less likely to deny their daughters education. Then those educated daughters are more likely to educate their own daughters – and the cycle continues. According to Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of UNFPA, voluntary family planning “will not only save and improve the lives of women and children; it will empower women, reduce poverty and ultimately build stronger nations.”

Education. It’s good stuff! Let’s make sure all of the world’s girls get it.

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