Education is a right, not a privilege – just take a look at Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights! There is immeasurable value to attaining an education; yet, despite recognizing this value, it still is not a reality for many. While education’s most obvious asset is attributed to a relative increase in income, it also shows a positive correlation with a person’s health. Yet, why is only half of the population reaping the benefits?
The education gender gap is nothing new. It is something we have all been well aware of for decades, and have been working to rectify. Yet despite the immense progress some nations have made, there is still an alarming amount of data that confirms a continuance in educational discrimination, especially in the developing world.
Now, how can one think of the education gender gap without thinking of Malala Yousafzai, “the voice of 60 million girls who are deprived of education.” In 2012, Malala’s story swept the globe and brought the question of gender and education to the forefront of international consciousness. For a brief moment, the world united optimistically in hopes of aiding female access to education. Malala has since become a household name, and her activism for access to education for females has been recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to her in 2014. Malala has certainly made waves and efforts have been strengthened, but there is still much work to be done in addressing the education gender gap.
A shared opinion that is highly supported among the academic community is that the social rate of return on women’s education is higher compared to men. Additionally, when women are educated, general productivity increases while lowering fertility rates. The Guttmacher Institute of Advanced Sexual and Reproductive Health presented data from Demographic and Health Surveys for nine Latin American countries. It was reported that “women with no education have large families of 6-7 children, whereas better educated women have family sizes of 2-3 children, comparable to those women in the developed world.” It just makes sense. Women who attend higher level education often get married after their studies, slowing down the rate of which they will have children to a more mature period in their lives. Not only is this less economically straining for a household, its external benefit contributes to the mitigation of overpopulation and resource depletion. This also lowers risk of famine, malnutrition and disease across the globe due to education’s strong correlation to health. A mother who is more informed and better paid will be able to better care for her children in terms of general nutrition and afford the health care cost of having a child.
Furthermore, educated mothers have a multiplier impact on future generations which gives way to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. Not only is the investment in women’s education politically, economically, and environmentally beneficial, it also promotes cultural progression. Women who receive education in regions where females play a subordinate role in the community will often become advocates for gender rights, inspiring young women to pursue an education.
Whether you find yourself in Pakistan’s river valley or in the mountains of Peru, you’ll surely find youth that are passionate about accessing education. Inaccessibility to education, especially for girls, is an international problem, but there are ways to help solve this issue! So, let this be a call to action to raise awareness and open dialogue about the importance to invest in women’s education.