Education is the single most impactive weapon to empower women and save them from the cycle of poverty. While the gender gap in primary education has decreased over the past two decades, significant inequalities still remain. With women comprising two thirds of the illiterate population, and 2.6 million more girls out of school compared to boys around the world, now is not the time to deny females the right to a decent education.

That’s why USAID recently launched Let Girls Learn, an effort to give girls around the world access to quality education, backed by $230 million in new programs.

Based on statistics from USAID and the World Bank, here are five reasons why an investment in a girl’s education is an investment in a better world:

1. Educating Women Saves Lives
According to USAID, 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in the developing world. However, based on data from the World Bank, child mortality is reduced by 18 per thousand births with each additional year of female education. Giving young women access to education will decrease birth related deaths, as well as safeguard the health of all families. Women who complete primary school education are more likely to ensure their children are immunized, meet their children’s nutritional requirements and practice better sanitation.

2. Educating Women Increases GDP
Family earnings are increased when a wife has received an education. Educated women are better able to provide for their families, and help make smarter financial decisions. USAID reports show that one extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s future wage 10 to 20 percent. On the larger scale, USAID data reveals that when 10% more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3 percent.

3. Educating Women Limits Overpopulation
Investing in women’s education keeps girls in school longer. In the developing world, 1 in 7 girls will marry before they are 15. If a girl stays in school for seven or more years, on average, they will get married four years later and have two fewer children. Additionally, when women are educated about birth control, they are equipped to practice safe family planning.

4. Educating Woman Decreases Disease
Women make up nearly 52 percent of the global total of people living with HIV. A girl who completes a basic education is 3 times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS.

5. Educating Women is the right thing to do
The bottom line is: every child deserves the right to a quality education, and girls are no exception. With programs that ensure safe, quality and empowering education –like those implemented by USAID and Let Girls Learn –the world is one step closer to being a more just and equitable place.

– Grace Flaherty

Sources: USAID, USAID 2, USAID 3, World Bank
Photo: Colorado Chamber of Commerce