Giving girls an education

An item in the news today grabbed my attention, looking at a new documentary that follows nine girls around the world in their quest to get schooling.

Entitled ‘Girl Rising’, it features the stories of individual girls from Cambodia, India, Peru, Egypt, Nepal, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Sierra Leone. What unites them is their desire to get an education, and the difficulties they face in doing so.

Considering myself ‘well-educated’ in comparison to many globally, I for one am passionate that all girls have the chance for an education. As currently an all-female team (girl power and all that!), the issue of education for women is important to us Mangos. Each of us have completed compulsory education, further education and we are all lucky enough to have a degree under our belts. Without this background, we are conscious that the likelihood is that none of us would be in the privileged position we are today.

As the documentary points out, education isn’t just about getting job however. Education for women globally improves health standards, reduces child trafficking, increases a country’s GDP, and breaks the cycle of poverty – as well as giving individual girls the chance at a better life. As narrator in ‘Girl Rising’, actress Meryl Streep said “Educating women and girls has the most optimistic, positive effects on families, communities and economies worldwide.”

A number of initiatives are working to recognise the impact of education, including the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) from the British Government which launched last month. This aims to help up to a million of the world’s poorest girls improve their lives through education. One example is the £30 million Step Change projects forming part of this that will be led by non-state organisations and will quickly and effectively expand education opportunities for 670,000 girls at primary and secondary level in nine focus countries.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative launched in 2000 is a partnership of organisations committed to narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education. It also seeks to ensure that, by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to free, quality education.

I hope that hearing the stories of these individuals can really bring home the importance of global education for women, and will encourage people to support initiatives such as the above.

Here is just a taster of some of the facts that astounded me surrounding women and education. Research has found:

• Worldwide, 66 million girls are missing out on an education
• It is estimated that, of those girls who are enrolled at school, 100 million will drop out of school before they even complete their primary school education
• In 2008, it was estimated the economic cost to 65 low and middle income transitional countries of failing to educate girls to the same standards as boys is a huge $92 billion each year
• In 2004, the amount needed to be spent on basic education for all was less than the amount the USA and Europe spent on ice cream ($31 billion)
• A girl with an extra year of education can earn up to 20 per cent more as an adult
• When a girl in the developing world receives an education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children
• In Nigeria, 71 per cent of women with no education think violence is justified when a woman leaves the house without telling her husband, compared to 33 per cent of those with secondary education
• Early pregnancy limits the chances of a girl finishing school. In Ghana, 83 per cent of parents listed the possibility of girls falling pregnant as a disadvantage of schooling them.
• The tendancy for girls doing household chores sees girls in Guinea Bissau for instance working an average of eight hours a day on household chores compared to an average three for boys, meaning a lack of time for schoolwork

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