Today is International Women’s Day, so it’s the perfect time to celebrate the progress made by women and reflect on how the world improves when women are educated.
Even in the 21st century, girls are less likely than boys to receive an education. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, only 40 percent of countries provide girls with an equal access to education. Women make up two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults.
Much of the inequality is in sub-Saharan Africa, where less than half of women can read.
It seems crazy that we need to even provide an argument for why half of the world’s population should receive a decent education, but it becomes clear when you consider that women’s education levels becomes intertwined with a whole range of important issues.
What does the research say?
Study after study has shown that gender equality in education has far-reaching social and economic benefits, as well as empowering individuals.
For example, one study found that female education reduces the rate of children’s deaths. Each additional year of a mother’s education reduces the probability of an infant mortality by between 5 and 10 percent.
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Another study found that a child born to a mother who can ready is 50 percent more likely to live past the age of 5. Also, educated women are less likely to marry early and are more likely to have smaller but healthier families. They’re also more likely to send their children to school.
Prevention of HIV and AIDS is also massively helped through providing education to women. The UNAIDS Gap Report 2014 shows that increasing women’s education vastly improves the application of effective strategies for reducing the prevalence of HIV and AIDS.
“A 32-country study found that women with post-primary education were five times more likely than non-literate women to have knowledge about HIV, while non-literate women were four times more likely to believe that it is not possible to prevent HIV,” according to the report.
The benefits extend beyond public health. It turns out that the economies of some countries miss out on over $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys.
Quite simply, a world with better gender equality is a better world for everyone.