Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” But the inverse can also be true. When a socially marginalized group gains access to rights and opportunities, they can benefit everyone around them. This statement holds true for women’s rights. History has proven that easy access to women’s education leads to less poverty. Here are four examples that support this claim.
Women’s education results in better family planning
Niger is not only one of the world’s poorest countries, but it boasts one of the world’s highest birth rates. Women from Niger each give birth to an average of 7.6 children. The country sees large families as a sign of power and wealth. But “it’s impossible to feed, educate and care for all these children in the short term,” according to the nation’s family planning division.
Niger developed Project Sawki to teach women about birth control, family planning and forced marriages. Their goal is to encourage smaller family sizes. Aid workers created this project to let women speak freely about their marriages and future. “Husband schools” also exist in Niger to teach men the benefits of family planning through educated women.
The BBC, reporting on Niger, concludes that, “Education appears to be the key to reducing the number of babies born.”
Countries that invest in schooling become richer and healthier
Women’s education leads to less poverty, but also to several other benefits. UNICEF studied how countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America changed by investing in women’s advancement. The investing countries found an increase in economic development, income per family and health. Human trafficking and child mortality rates for those same nations declined. By contrast, the countries in the study who did not invest in educating women were met with reduced income and slowed growth.
Female empowerment comes from female choices
The ultimate obstacle to women’s empowerment, according to The Guardian, is the culture they live in. Women not only contribute 70 percent of the world’s working hours, they also make up 70 percent of the world’s poor. The most limiting factors to a girl’s future can be the people closest to her. These limitations take the form of a neighbor shaming a school-attending girl, or a parent arranging a girl’s marriage. If women’s economic choices are tied to their families then they will have few tools in escaping poverty.
The World Bank supports gender equality in addition to poverty elimination. It does so by providing resources to impoverished women while promoting gender equality in the household. The result is large development payoffs in society.
Education, in general, leads to less poverty
The American Prospect (TAP) looks into the complications of integrating education into an anti-poverty initiative. It is certain that both men and women’s education leads to less poverty. However, TAP notes how education only fights poverty in places where economic returns are viable and achievable for those with higher learning. Workers require a context wherein they can be rewarded for their skills and can see the benefits of the growth they help create.
Job training improves the quality of workers for a global market, which allows poorer nations to benefit from their wealthy peers. Supporting women’s education will create the context where girls can improve their lives and improve the world at the same time.
In 2017, Congress introduced the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings act. Through providing women’s education, the United States can bring about the positive changes recorded, and predicted, by the BBC, UNICEF, The Guardian and The American Prospect. If you are an American citizen, you can support this bill at The Borgen Project’s website.
– Nick Edinger