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Young girls in underdeveloped countries all over the world occupy a crucial position in the overall equation of global poverty. Because the majority of these girls lack a significant amount of education, and are strictly bound by cultural principles like child marriage, they have little ability to make any decisions for themselves, and often find themselves facing sexual violence and pregnancy at a young age.

There is an estimated 250 million girls living in poverty today. In places in South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, 1 out of every 8 girls is subjected to a child marriage, and 1 out of every 7 girls give birth before the age of 17. Infant and maternal mortality is very common in cases of child marriage because of the significant lack of resources and education in these underdeveloped countries.

Education is intrinsically linked to these young girls who otherwise could encounter a child marriage. Without education young girls are subject to others who make decisions for them.

Providing adolescent girls with proper education would supply them with the skill set necessary to choose healthy paths for their lives. If primary education were required for all girls living in South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa there would be 14% fewer child marriages. If all of these girls also received secondary education there would be 64% fewer girls bound in marriages at a young age.

It is economically wise to invest in the education of young girls as primary education has been proven to increase a girls’ future wages. The problem is many of the regions in which poor adolescent girls live devalue their lives. Patriarchal values have a very dominant presence, making it easy for young girls to follow in the steps of cultural tradition despite how much it inhibits their own futures.

Educating young girls would teach them to resist the pressures of a society that urges them into early marriages. Education would also prepare girls to confront situations and injustices where they are being taken advantage of. Girls would be better equipped to stand alongside other women and fight for their right to education, just as Malala Yousafzai did, her example now an act of heroism and inspiration for girls everywhere.

Supplying young girls in impoverished countries with a quality education would have a significant impact on the current state of poverty, introduce a major decrease in infant mortality, and promote a healthier and more empowering environment for young girls to thrive.

– Chante Owens

Sources: The Guardian, Reuters
Photo: Educate a Child