SEATTLE — Empowering more women and girls to receive an education is a major focus of the United Nations’ Goals for Sustainable Development. If 50 percent of the planet’s population is being held back from its full productive potential, this deeply affects the rest of the world. These are 10 advantages of female education and why female education is necessary for sustainable development.
Global Advantages of Female Education
- Good for Economic Growth
Perhaps the most obvious of the advantages of female education is the potential for economic growth. According to the World Bank, women see a 25 percent increase in wages later in life with only one year of secondary education. Female education even affects gross domestic product, with a rise of 0.3 percentage points per percentage point increase in female education participation. When women are educated, the entire economy grows and thrives.
- Good for Communities
An educated woman with increased earning potential is more likely to give back to the community than her male counterparts. Data released by PayScale reveals that many female-dominated careers report high rates of “job meaning”, claiming career satisfaction was more important than salary. This corresponds with an MIT survey that asked men and women to name a leadership role that they respect most. The top response for women was “public service leader” while for men the top response was “CEO”. Educated women tend to value compassion, empathy and community engagement.
- Decreased Chance of Abuse by Delaying Marriage and Child Bearing
Educated women are much less likely to suffer domestic abuse than their illiterate counterparts. In more traditional developing households, women are viewed as domestic commodities existing in the home and for the home, only to leave when married off to a new household. Investing in girls’ education delays early marriage and parenthood; if every girl in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa completed secondary education, child marriage would fall by 64 percent.
- Decreased Child and Mother Mortality Rates
Educated women are more likely to marry later in life, pushing back the age that they have their first child. When women have children later in life, specifically past age 18, women are more likely to survive the potentially dangerous first birth, as is their child. Furthermore, educated women are often more knowledgeable about children’s nutrition, proper sanitation practices and medical care. The Center for Global Development estimated that 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved if their mothers had completed secondary school.
- Intergenerational Success
More educated mothers mean fewer mother and child deaths and illnesses. The loss of a mother can be disastrous for the chances of her children’s survival and future welfare. Furthermore, children with educated mothers are more likely to attend school and pursue higher levels of education than their peers with uneducated mothers. A cross-country study in India found women’s education has more of an impact than men’s education on children’s education. Educated women provide a better starting point for the next generation.
- Promoting Social Inclusion
When girls are kept out of school in developing countries, they are usually working in the home on domestic chores. Girls spend 33 to 85 percent more time per day on unpaid domestic chores than boys of the same age. The seclusion from the public sphere only worsens as girls reach adolescence, as they are discouraged from pursuing activities outside the home. This social isolation of girls leads to higher levels of depression in women as well as other mental health issues. Seeking an education encourages women to develop a professional life within the public sphere, allowing them to become part of the community and develop their own identities away from the home.
- Promoting Good Health
Children born to literate mothers are 50 percent more likely to survive past age five than children born to illiterate mothers. Children whose mothers receive secondary schooling are twice as likely to receive vaccinations against major disease, promoting better health outcomes for the entire community. More vaccinations mean fewer chances for a disease to spread through a population. Another of the advantages of female education is the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. In Zambia, AIDS spreads twice as fast among uneducated girls.
- Better for the Environment
Brookings refers to female education as the “cheapest, most cost-effective mechanism for reducing emissions.” This is due to projected population growth. The United Nations projects that the world’s population will grow by 2.4 billion people in the next 30 years. Almost all of this growth (2.3 billion) will be seen in developing countries. Africa’s population alone is projected to rise by 1.2 billion people. The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis believes improved female education could result in 1.8 billion fewer people than the U.N. predicts by 2100. The faster female education can be scaled up, the more impact it will have on overpopulation.
- Reducing Terrorism and Extremism
One of the more surprising advantages of female education is that it can work to reduce extremism and terrorism and increase security. Female education means greater female involvement in society and the economy. Research has found that educated women are less likely to support terrorism and militancy than men of the same education level.
- Encouraging Human Rights
When women in a society are more educated, more emphasis is placed on gender equality. As women achieve equality, human rights become a strong value of communities, as women in leadership tend to fight for disenfranchised groups. Female leadership in government also becomes more common, and when women lead, women push for more equitable systems of governance.
Gwen K. Young, a humanitarian and expert in international development, remarks that when women are placed in leadership positions, resources are allocated more fairly and effectively. The modern ideas of transformative leadership such as empathy, inclusiveness and a desire to openly negotiate disagreements are more in line with female qualities. With more emphasis on education, women will be able to assume these and many other roles, allowing everyone to benefit from the advantages of global education.
– Kelilani Johnson