SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” This quote, which Malala Yousafzai said, demonstrates the importance of education and how little is necessary to change the lives of millions. Ending poverty through girls’ education is the primary solution to the impending issue.
Who is Malala?
Malala Yousfazai is a women’s rights advocate specializing in expanding quality education worldwide. Hailing from Mingora, Pakistan, Malala began her educational journey at her local all-girls school. At a young age, Malala recognized the role of education in decreasing poverty, as it offered increased income opportunities for women. However, in 2008, the Taliban arrived, destroying any chance for Malala to continue her educational pursuits.
When Malala was a young girl, the Taliban overthrew the Pakistani government. The Taliban imposed harsh rules and cruel punishments, forbidding women from inherent rights. Under Taliban rule, for example, women didn’t have the right to receive an education or leave their homes without a male supervisor. Once the Taliban arrived in Malala’s town, she began to advocate for women’s rights through speeches and an online, international, anonymous blog. Through her advocacy, Malala raised awareness worldwide of the injustices Muslim women faced due to the Taliban.
Eventually, the Taliban attempted to silence Malala through an attempted assassination. Luckily, Malala survived and, as a result, created the Malala Fund. The Malala Fund is a nonprofit organization that Malala and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai lead together. Created in 2013, the organization aims to project the voices of young girls facing restrictions on their rights.
The Malala Fund Mission
Lucia Fry, the Director of Research and Policy for the Malala Fund, spoke extensively with The Borgen Project about the organization’s aims in girls’ education. The Malala Fund aims to “champion the rights of every girl to have years of free, safe, quality education.” She also explained that the Malala Fund invests in girls’ social entrepreneurship and activism while using active participation to unite women worldwide.
Ultimately, women’s rights to education have a massive contribution to increasing women’s rights while also decreasing rates of poverty worldwide. The Malala Fund aims to support women’s rights and access to education by increasing advocacy and connecting empowered women worldwide. Throughout the world, various social and religious customs restrict women’s rights and their access to education. As in Malala’s case, the religious laws surrounding the strict interpretation of Sharia law resulted in restricting female education and other inherent rights.
At the forefront of the fight for education is the Malala Fund. Using donations, blog posts and global interactions, the Malala Fund is advocating to end educational discrimination. Malala interacts with students, activists and political leaders around the world to voice necessary changes that contribute to ending gender inequality.
Additionally, the Malala Fund supports grassroots activists and encourages girls to speak out against educational injustices through the Assembly – the Malala Fund’s online newsletter. According to the Malala Fund’s 2021 annual report, the Malala Fund’s work expanded into Nigeria and Pakistan. It also spent 80.4% of its donations on grants and programs to advance female education.
Female Education and Poverty
The role of women’s education is one of the critical elements to ending poverty worldwide. A study by the World Bank in 2018 recorded, “limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.” The World Bank article continues to mention how combined factors can help lift every aspect of a country out of poverty. Through this data, the message is unmistakable – increased gender equality leads to increased overall income.
Along with increased income and economic opportunity, educated women also decrease other negative aspects that commonly cause poverty. For example, the World Bank reports, “Better educated women tend to be more informed about nutrition and health care, have fewer children, marry at a later age and their children are usually healthier…they are more likely to participate in the formal labor market and earn higher incomes.” Education also ends generational poverty, as women are more likely to spend time learning and working rather than focusing on domestic chores with no economic opportunity. Overall, this demonstrates that education helps end poverty.
Women’s rights, especially to education, are often heavily influenced by gender expectations. Fry explains that the root cause of gender inequality is “…patriarchal norms and values, which say that it is okay or even desirable, for men to police what women wear, or how they behave, or what kind of content they are exposed to.” Thus, women’s roles are commonly related to domestic work and, as a result, women lack any ties to political, social or economic independence. This allows males to establish these patriarchal norms due to their inherent power.
Social, Political and Economic Consequences of Educated Females
Once women receive an education, several social, political and economic changes occur. In the social scope of society, women are often more likely to demand more rights once they receive an education. Empowered women are the result of increased education. According to the EU Business School Article, educated women are more likely to experience economic independence, make better health choices and participate in political events. These aspects of empowerment, along with others, help women develop unity and increase gender equality.
Fry adds to this argument by stating, “… girls’ education [is]being termed [as]the world’s best development investment…for every additional year of education that a woman receives, she is more likely to lead a healthy life herself, have fewer and healthier children, have a better, more secure job and receive better income, and [she is]more likely to participate in civic and political life.”
In the social aspect of society, educated women are more likely to disband the “domestic traditions” they are assigned. This causes immense political change, as these empowered women focus on actively participating in politics to increase their rights and influence in government. The representation of women in government also encourages future generations of educated, economically independent women.
Finally, as the political and social changes in society demonstrate, several economic changes occur once educated female populations arise. Educated women tend to strive for job opportunities rather than domestic chores. By doing so, women tend to have children later in life and become more economically independent. This process causes a chain reaction for future generations educated as well. Overall, educated women lead to profound social, economic and political changes that affect a country’s current and future generations.
This process demonstrates ending poverty through girls’ education. According to UNESCO, “if all adults received two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, it would lift nearly 60 million people out of poverty.” Overall, because women receive an education, they can receive a steady income. This steady income allows women to support themselves and build a personal lifestyle, contributing to their independence.
Education Changing the Future
According to Global Citizen, “Women who receive an education are more likely to become entrepreneurs, invest in their communities and empower other women…the toxic cycle of poverty is turned inside out and becomes a cycle of prosperity.” Educating women allows them to receive a steady income, thus avoiding poverty, which would be unavoidable in the opposite situation. In most cases, uneducated women cannot end the restrictions placed on them, as they lack the leverage to make social, political and economic changes in their country. This causes uneducated women to enter poverty, as they have no representation or empowerment to help them increase their rights, achieve gender equality and become independent.
Educated women can change a country’s social, economic and political state. Currently, the restrictions against women result from patriarchal, social and religious norms. These restrictions force women into domestic roles, which often result in poverty. They also inhibit women’s ability to lead, think and act independently. Thus, education is a necessity for women to avoid poverty.
– Sania Patel