MATUA, Zimbabwe – Many parents in poor countries tend to have a gender bias towards their sons over their daughters in deciding which child to invest the low family finances in.
Tererai Trent is a humanitarian, scholar and speaker who grew up in Matau, a rural Zimbabwe community, with no access to education. She did not have the opportunity to attend school until Heifer International stepped in to help. Trent earned three college degrees in the end and founded the Tinogana Foundation.
Trent shared her experience of growing up in rural Zimbabwe where girls were treated as second class citizens. Girls in her village were destined for early marriage, illiteracy and poverty. Pre-school was nonexistent, which robbed children of an early education. Girls were especially disadvantaged by this, considering their limited opportunities to advance.
Men in Matau found jobs in gold mines and urban factories. Women, on the other hand, were restricted to domestic duties and child care at home. Men had the tools to succeed as providers for the family. They knew how to read and write and increased their employment prospects as a result.
Parents invested in the education of their sons because males were expected to be providers. Sons needed to know how to read and write in order to attain gainful employment and make a living for their families. Men were the village role models because of their education and employment.
Women were marginalized because all their education opportunities were forfeited to their brothers. They could not compete with men for jobs or become role models like the men. Women were without the tools needed to succeed on their own.
Patriarchal societal norms in the community made girls dependent on their fathers, brothers and husbands. Girls were put at risk of falling deeper into poverty because of their lack of skills and economic opportunities.
Increased child and maternal mortality rates, disease and other poverty induced conditions are all consequences of not educating girls. Moreover, investment into education for girls is vital to making the world peaceful and poverty-free.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that education empowers girls to make their own decisions on how to improve their lives. Without an education, many girls have decisions made for them and with little benefit.
Early marriage is one decision that girls have no say in and takes away their independence. One in eight girls are affected by child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia. Child marriage would drop by 14 percent in those regions if all girls were given a secondary education. Furthermore, 64 percent fewer girls would be married at school age.
Girls and boys must have equal school enrollment or else women will remain more illiterate than men and unable to obtain secure, well-paying jobs.
Educated girls can make family planning decisions based on their knowledge of the health risks associated with years of consecutive births.
Only 30 percent of uneducated women in Pakistan believe that they can choose how many children they will have. On the contrary, 63 percent of women with a secondary education believe they can choose how many children they have.
Births per mother rates in Sub-Saharan Africa would drop from nearly seven to four births if girls receive a secondary education.
Education gives girls the knowledge and confidence to challenge this gender bias that restricts what they can and cannot do.
– Brittany Mannings