“It’s about time someone said it. Being born female in one of the world’s poorest countries means your life will be harder, simply because of your gender. Unlocking the full potential of girls and women wouldn’t just transform their own lives, or even their families’ – it could help end extreme poverty for good”. – ONE.org
Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl, a day declared by the United Nations in 2011 to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world. It’s a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere. Fast forward to today and the International Day of the Girl has become a global movement of hope, inspiration and advocacy to better the lives of half our planet who is being left behind.
Globally, more than 600 million girls live in the developing world and of that number, 130 million girls are currently not in school right now. This is a huge problem which has significant repercussions not only for girls but for the economy and well-being of society as a whole. Education is one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against extreme poverty – so it’s unacceptable that so many girls are still denied the chance to learn.
ONE, a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than eight million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, fully understands the power of girls and the way education can be used as a conduit to better not only their lives but society as a whole. ONE is a strong advocate for the rights of women and girls around the world and in honor of this year’s International Day of the Girl, one has released a new report titled “The Toughest Places for a Girl to Get an Education”.
The report identities the ten toughest places in the world for a girl to get an education and has some tragic facts:
- The top ten toughest countries are all fragile states and among the poorest in the world.
- Nine out of ten toughest countries are in Africa.
- Poverty is sexist. Within the toughest 10 countries, girls are 57% more likely than boys to be out of school at the primary level and 83% at the secondary level.
- In the 10 toughest countries, half of the girls are married before their 18th birthday.
- In South Sudan, 73% of girls don’t go to primary school.
Yet there is so much hope. Educating girls can change the world. The ripple effect of educating one girl in a community is astounding. The math is simple and easy. So why aren’t more girls in school?
Despite these dire statistics, there is hope. There is an enormous, untapped opportunity because it has been proven that the payoffs of educating girls are considerable. Just providing one extra year of primary school education can increase a girls’ future wages by 10 to 20 percent, and an extra year of secondary school can help boost wages by 15 to 25 percent. Even when a mere 10 percent more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3 percent. Keeping girls in school not only boosts their livelihoods and the future livelihoods of their families, it is proven to keep them from marrying early, having more children and to help them be more engaged in the day to day lives of their families. An educated girl will be a better providers for her children and will have more knowledge on critical issues such as nutrition, maternal care and deadly diseases like HIV-AIDS. Furthermore, an educated mother is more likely to earn income for her family and when she does, she will reinvest 90 percent of it into her family, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent by her husband.
There are many cultural, religious and poverty-related barriers that keep girls out of school. For instance, in poor families oftentimes only the boys are sent to school and the girls are kept home to work. Rural girls will generally help out with cooking, cleaning, child-rearing and even manual labor. If a poor family lives in a country in which you have to pay school fees, it even further deepens the problem. Boys will often be chosen to attend school rather than girls. Other barriers that are easily solvable yet continue to keep girls out of school include access to adequate lavatories and such simple things as sanitary pads.
These barriers can be overcome as long as the world believes in the power of educating girls.
Educating girls is not just right, it’s smart. Let’s help break the cycle of poverty by giving more girls the opportunity to learn and make the world a better place. Help us spread the word on why it’s vital to educate girls with these simple steps.
There is so much we can all do to ensure girls receive the same opportunity and future as all. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
- Read ONE’s new report “The Toughest Places for a Girl to Get an Education”.
- Join the #GirlsCount: 130 million girls didn’t go to school today. Not because they didn’t want to, but because they weren’t given the chance.The result is that these 130 million girls don’t have a fair chance to live a decent and productive life, and the entire world misses out by not benefitting from their potential. Will you join the count for girls’ education today? Go to one.org/girlscount to take action.
- Watch the movie: “He Named Me Malala” and bring your kids!
- Watch the amazing “Girl Rising” and visit the webpage.
- If you have a girl, join the cool United Nations Foundation “Girl Up” movement.
- Talk with your boys and girls about the importance of the movement and what is happening globally to girls.
- Simply read and share this post. Education is critical to gaining knowledge of the issues and getting more people involved.
- Learn and talk about the issues. Nothing will change if we don’t use our voice.