In recent days, U.S. Senator Ed Royce (CA-R) announced that on April 3 the Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Women’s education in violence prone countries and how it can promote the creation of economic opportunities and counter radicalism. The hearing will count with the presence of three experts on women’s education. In the words of Royce, the aim of the hearing is to assess “how a failure to appreciate its importance can result in missed opportunities for development and counter-radicalism.”
In the last three decades education opportunities have been greatly expanded, yet women are still at a disadvantage. The difference in countries like Pakistan can be as much as 30 points. While 70 percent of men over 15 years of age are considered literate, for women this only reaches 40 percent. In Afghanistan, this difference is even more astonishing where only 13 percent of women can read and write.
According to Royce, the hearing will reinforce the correlation between women and girl’s education and the promotion of economic growth, childhood development and an increase in life expectancy overall. There is strong evidence that connects women’s education and an increase in a country’s GDP. As women enter the labor force they increase the earning potential of their family. Moreover, as women tend to spend their income on children more than men, this helps increase a child’s survival more than twenty times than families supported only by men.
Pakistan is of special interest, which is why, after the hearing, the committee will move on to considering the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act (H.R. 3583). In honor of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Malala Yousafzai, this bill would require that 50 percent of the scholarships awarded under it be given to Pakistani women.
This comes at the same time when private donors have pledged to donate 1 billion to Pakistan for the support of educational programs over the next three years. According the former prime minister and now UN special envoy for education Gordon Brown, the goal is to provide education to 55 million Pakistanis over the age of ten who are considered illiterate. Pakistan’s government also wants to dedicate more resources to education in order to eventually achieve universal education. This is good news for women and girls in Pakistan, since one of the major goals of the pledge is to get a step closer to the eradication of child marriage, child labor, and gender discrimination.
– Sahar Abi Hassan