Girls worldwide, in their millions, are denied education. Unlike their brothers, some girls are never sent to school, or stop attending school after primary school. Education is not considered a worthwhile pursuit, and instead a pointless investment, for a girl who will spend her life at the behest of her husband or male relatives, running a home and looking after children. Some families cannot afford education, but even when education is free, educating girls is deemed unnecessary. Denying women and girls around the world access to education is one of the single biggest human rights abuses.
The benefits do go far beyond just recognising the potential of millions of women around the world. The education of women and girls worldwide is one of the greatest transformative development goals, the power of which cannot be underestimated. If a woman is educated, she: is healthier; is less susceptible to becoming a victim of human trafficking (which often leads to sex trafficking) abuse and violence; is more likely to have a healthy pregnancy (and fewer children), give birth to a child that survives and survive labour herself; has a higher chance of getting a job and thereby being financially independent from her husband; can make financial decisions on behalf of the family (when a woman is in control of money it is proven to be spent more responsibly on food, health, hygiene and education for boys and girls). Educating women has the power to alleviate poverty worldwide.
“The education of women and girls worldwide is one of the greatest transformative development goals”
As we draw to the end of the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign’, which began on 25th November, the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, we must not stop fighting for further investment into the issues that are affecting women all around the world. This year the UN Secretary-General has called for more investment to ‘End Violence Against Women’ to address the significant funding shortfall in this area. The position of women in society, and the astounding inequality that still exists, allow and perpetuate violence and abuse against women. As it stands, the resources dedicated to the issue of gender equality, and violence against women and girls specifically, do not adequately match the challenge faced worldwide. Educating women is one of the most effective investments that can be made to stop this global injustice.
Economic arguments are often used to make the case for gender equality. Indeed, in Vietnam for example, expenditure and lost earnings resulting from domestic violence was estimated at 1.4 per cent of GDP in 2010. In Laos, the cost of delivering a minimum package of essential services for victims of domestic violence amounted to 0.25 per cent of GDP – significantly less than the cost of violence itself. Yet, the argument is not just an economic one, and it is always difficult to quantify the benefits of educating women. But without a doubt it is one of the most effective ways to eliminate poverty.
But most importantly this is a fundamental question of morality, one that the previous International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, held high on the UK’s development agenda. Similarly to Britain’s position with the slave trade in the 17th Century, the UK must continue to take a lead role to encourage the cultural shift necessary to educate, and therefore emancipate, women all over the world providing the most effective and sustainable form of poverty eradication.