India's Gender Gap

As two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population or 496 million people are women, the gender gap in literacy rates remains conspicuous. The Guardian calls the gap “stubbornly unchanging” as gender inequality persists and overall literacy rates improve.

In the past 20 years, youth literacy rates have jumped from 83% to 91%, while the number of illiterate youth declined from 170 million to 115 million. Yet the difference between literacy rates for men and women has remained quite stable.

For instance, India’s gender gap is stark. The country holds the largest illiterate population and constitutes one-third, or 187 million, of all illiterate women around the world; there is a 24 percentage point difference between men and women. About 75% of Indian men have at least a basic level of literacy while 51% of women are literate.

This disparity in literacy rates remained persistent throughout the years according to data collected by India’s National Commission on Population. For example, in 1951, the literacy rate for males was 27% while just a mere 8% of women were literate — a 19 percentage point difference. In addition, in 1981, 56% of men were literate with a 30% literacy rate for women — a 26 percentage point difference.

Taking a Closer Look at India’s Gender Gap

As the gender gap remains stable although overall literacy rates are on the rise, this predicament is an interesting puzzle that requires a closer look at possible causes.

According to Planet Read, the following social factors have contributed to India’s gender gap:

  1. Gender-based inequality
  2. Social discrimination and economic exploitation
  3. Domestic responsibilities dominating educational responsibilities
  4. Low female enrollment in schools
  5. Low retention rate and high dropout rate

It is obvious that abiding social and cultural norms have been a roadblock towards promoting a more balanced ratio in literacy rates.

In a report by the University of Maryland, College Park, Aparna Sundaram and Reeve Vanneman observed a counter-intuitive relationship between an increase in women’s labor force participation and literacy rates. In areas that promote the idea of women in the labor force, there are also lower rates in literacy and education levels.

One may assume that the participation of women in the labor force contributes to an equalization in women’s status and, thus, a decrease in the gap between men and women literacy rates. However, this does not seem to be the case. The solutions towards resolving disparity seem much more complex than simply promoting an equalized labor force.

As more education is provided to a society as a whole, the more likely it would be for the persisting gender gap in literacy rates to decrease. Sounds like a paradox, but it is a solution worth noting.

As literacy is tied to thriving economies, it is important to focus on improving the gender gap in literacy rates. According to data, an increase in literacy rates correlates with a decrease in the share of the population living in poverty — on less than $2 per day. Moreover, focusing on educating women more specifically would, according to Bloomberg, yield a “growth premium” in DGP trends around the world.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Reasons to Invest in Education for Women
According to the Huffington Post, literacy for women means “less domestic violence, sexual assault [and] sexually transmitted disease.” Investing in education for women also has the benefit of lifting entire families and communities out of poverty. Here are 10 reasons to invest in education for women:

10 Reasons to Invest in Education for Women

  1. Women who are literate can earn up to 95 percent more than women who are illiterate.
  2. An educated woman is able to earn a 25 percent higher wage after attending one year of secondary education and is more likely to reinvest 90 percent of her earnings into her family.
  3. If all girls in South and West Asia, as well as girls in sub-Saharan Africa, attended secondary education, the number of child marriages would fall by nearly 65 percent.
  4. While education for women reduces the number of child marriages, it is also able to reduce the fertility rate of women by up to 10 percent. Educated women overall have fewer children or have children later in life, and those children are more likely to survive and also become educated.
  5. Women who are educated are less likely to contract HIV /AIDS, which leads to fewer children born with HIV and Aids as well.
  6. According to the Girls Global Education Fund, a child born to a woman in Africa with no educated has a one in five chance of dying before the age of five.
  7. Investing in women’s education is shown to carry onto the next generation, with a child being born to an educated woman attending an extra 0.32 years. The results are even greater for young girls born to educated women.
  8. Educated women have a large effect on national economic growth; when education for women is raised by one percentage point, the gross domestic product is increased by approximately 0.3 percentage points.
  9. Education for women consistently delivers more stable and far-reaching economic benefits for families and communities.
  10. An increase in educated women means an increase in female leaders at the local and global levesls.

These are just ten of the many reasons to invest in education for women. As an African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.”

Amanda Panella

Photo: Pixabay

October 17 is celebrated throughout the world as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Extreme poverty has many causes and benefactors that have allowed it to become the expansive global issue it is today. Lack of food supply, insufficient amount of suitable water sources and deadly viruses all contribute to the extreme poverty epidemic. However, lack of education is often overlooked, yet it holds as much stock in healing poverty as any other way. Making education a major target is crucial, especially for the female children in these areas.

Children in impoverished areas are not receiving proper education. However, the children that are receiving any sort of education are predominately males, and females are simply left out of the education process. Only 43 percent of secondary-age girls are in school, and 1 in every 5 girls in the developing world do not complete any education beyond sixth grade.

There are several reasons why girls in developing countries do not make it past middle school education. These issues range from having to work to help support the family to being married off at a young age. More than 10,000 girls under the age of 15 are to be married each day in developing countries. However, girls that receive secondary education are six times less likely to marry before the age of eighteen. Additionally, girls who receive at least seven years of quality education tend to make better lifestyle decisions. They average a marriage age of at least four years later than girls who do not receive the same number of years in education, and average two fewer children.

In these impoverished areas, girls have also shown a better tendency to conserve their money and use it primarily or their family. A woman in a developing country who earns an income invests 90 percent of it into her family, a substantially higher percentage than the men boast. However, the money cannot be made without receiving an education. While girls have more obstacles to pass to obtain theirs, even one year of schooling can improve a girl’s individual earnings by 10-20 percent.

The value of an education can change several aspects of life. Studies show that youths in general who receive at least a primary education have as much as a 50 percent reduced rate to contract HIV and AIDS. If a child is taught at an early age ways to avoid these diseases and to treat them, the results could be staggering. Predictions show that up to 700,000 HIV cases could be potentially prevented if more children received a primary education.

Girls have several odds stacked against them. However, receiving an education can obviously impact the lives of young girls in developing countries. By obtaining this education, girls have a much better chance of improving their poverty situation. Programs such as Compassion (found here) allow people to sponsor a child, and through outside aid these children are able to obtain their education. The mission to institute education worldwide is a crucial one; without increased learning, the world will always have the lingering effects of extreme poverty. Fixing the education issue is a fine way to make a difference.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: Compassion Blog, Education Graphic, Compassion Website

Photo: World Literacy Initiative, Inc.