In June, USAID launched a program called Let Girls Learn to begin conversations about the need to support girls around the world in their pursuit of quality education. The organization will be investing $230 million in new programs to support global education.
Senior leader at USAID Thomas Staal said on the USAID blog, “Women are the caretakers and economic catalysts in our communities. No country can afford to ignore their potential.”
Sixty-two million girls worldwide are not in school and many more are fighting to stay in school against pressures from home and society. The U.S. government invests $1 billion each year through USAID in low-income countries to ensure the equitable treatment of boys and girls in schools. But, according to the Working Group on Girls, schoolgirls of all ages report sexual harassment and assault at school. If school cannot be a place where girls feel safe, there is little reason for them to continue attending.
Here are some reasons educating girls is important.
1. If all students in low-income countries had basic reading skills, there would be a 12 percent drop in global poverty.
2. Girls who stay in school for more than six years marry an average of four years later and have two fewer children.
3. Each additional year of education for a girl reduces child mortality by 18 per every thousand births.
4. Educated mothers are 50 percent more likely to immunize their children.
5. A girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS.
6. Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur each year in the developing world. With better health care and more skilled birth attendants, these deaths can be prevented.
7. Every extra year of school increases an individual’s work productivity by 10 to 30 percent.
8. Women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force even though they are less likely to own land. When women are empowered through education to fight for the same amount of land as men, there is an increase in crop yields by more than ten percent.
9. Educated women re-invest 90 percent of their income in their family, while men invest only 30 to 40 percent. The education of parents is linked to their children’s educational attainment, and the mother’s education is often more influential than the father’s.
10. A woman multiplies the impact of an investment made in her future by extending its benefits to her family and the world around her.
11. Women hold only 18.9 percent of the world’s legislator positions. But, countries where women’s share of seats in legislature is greater than 30 percent have better inclusivity, egalitarianism and democracy.
12. People of voting age who have had at least a primary education are 1.5 times more likely to support democracy.
13. When there is an increase in girls attending school by ten percent, a country’s GDP increases by an average of 0.3 percent.
In order to improve education, UNICEF says families and communities must partner with schools to develop curricula that fit students’ needs overall, and they must also manage their children’s educations. Basic education should be of little to no cost and scholarships should be available to compensate families for the loss of girls’ household labor.
School hours must be flexible for children who need to help at home as well. For girls, it is important for safety for schools to be close to home, as a dangerous walk to school can deter parents from sending their kids to school at all. Girls need preparation for school in the form of early childhood care. Finally, girls need role models; there need to be female teachers. Curricula must be relevant to girls and avoid gender stereotypes.
Letting girls learn affects not only the girls, but also their families, communities and the world. USAID is taking the first steps toward a world where girls have equal access to education and the opportunity to better the lives of those around them.
– Rachel Reed