“Thirty seconds. That is all the time it takes for thirteen underage girls to be sold into a marriage, turned into a breeder of sons and unwanted daughters, and imprisoned in a lifetime of anguish and abuse. This is the fate that awaits many women in third-world countries.”
Thirty seconds. That is all the time it takes for thirteen underage girls to be sold into a marriage, turned into a breeder of sons and unwanted daughters, and imprisoned in a lifetime of anguish and abuse. This is the fate that awaits many women in third-world countries. Many of these women have never stepped foot into a school, never savored a good book or written a letter, and were never given a chance to escape an endless and vicious cycle. However, there is one glaringly present solution that will stop this cycle: educating women. Despite it being deemed unnecessary in many developing countries, educating a girl has countless, profound effects on the future of her country and the world at large. According to the New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof, “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?”, educating women can double a country’s labor force, save the lives of thousands of children who would have been born to uneducated and impoverished mothers, and create a more stable political environment. These are the reasons the United Nations and various other organizations have strived to fund and improve education in developing countries, as detailed by the article “Education and the Developing World.” As shown in the documentary directed by Richard Robbins, Girl Rising, many girls in these countries are victims of sex trafficking, sexual assault, and arranged marriages. Fear of sexual assault, a belief that girls are only useful for marriage and bearing children, and the high cost are reasons that parents keep their daughters home from school. Despite these adversities, the benefits of educating girls greatly outweigh the negatives. Due to its potential for enhancing global economies and communities and providing girls in underdeveloped with a shield against injustice, the education of women is an extremely essential task that must be collectively undertaken around the world.
The education of women has a large capacity for boosting the economy and benefiting the political environment of a country. Research has shown that there is a 10% increase in wages per year of schooling that one has completed, which will eventually lead to widespread economic growth. It has also been demonstrated that by educating females alone, there will be a 40% decrease in malnutrition (“Education and the Developing World”). Educated women can enter the working world, doubling the formal labor force and thereby raising the living standard. This shows how educating girls can have a large effect on her community and country. The political stability of countries will also be improved with the education of girls. Many of the girls who are oppressed in today’s world belong to war-torn countries that are unfortunately still shrouded in backwards beliefs. Perhaps, if they educated more girls, these countries would experience peace as educating girls supports a civil society, democracy, and political stability.
The political situation of a country is also affected by the rate of unemployment, as more people out of work results in political upheaval. In fact, there has been shown to be a 4% increase in chance for a civil war for every 1% increase in the unemployed population aged 15-24 (Kristof 2). Educated women can help reduce the bulge in the youth population by having smaller families and creating stability. A study performed in Nigeria found that for each additional year of primary school, a girl has 0.26 fewer children (Kristof 2). Female education also improves the health conditions in a community as educated women are more likely to make intelligent choices that will benefit their children. According to Girl Rising, putting every child in school could prevent 700,000 cases of HIV each year. Children are also likely to live longer with educated mothers because women who have gone to school are more likely to seek prenatal care and 50% more likely to immunize their children (“Education and the Developing World”). All research points to one obvious conclusion: an educated mother means a healthier child.
The fact that 66 million girls are currently out of school worldwide has devastating effects on their lives. In many developing countries, girls are subject to sex trafficking and sexual assault and are often forced into arranged marriages at very young ages. Even more shocking, girls in modern and prosperous countries experience similar circumstances. According to Kristof, 100,000 girls under the age of eighteen are trafficked into commercial sex in the United States every year. The range of abuses women experience also includes sexual assault. 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence a year, 50% of them under the age of fifteen (Robbins). The fear of girls being sexually assaulted is a reason that some parents choose not to send their daughters to school.
Around the globe, 33 million fewer girls are in school than boys. Everything a family has goes into educating and priming a boy for life, as shown in Girl Rising when the profits from a girl’s marriage are used to buy a car for her brother. Many countries around the world do not offer public schooling, and parents are reluctant to use their limited funds to pay for the books of a girl. Another obstacle to education is that many girls enter marriage very early in their lives. Every year, fourteen million girls under the age of eighteen are married. Many of these girls die soon after from childbirth, the number one cause of death for girls between the ages of 15-19 (Robbins). These horrifying circumstances are often brought out by an archaic view that people have about the status of women. People have the belief that girls are only expected to marry, bear sons, and work in the household. They are dangerously unaware about the potential of a woman. Fortunately, an inexhaustible desire to learn and change the world is still present in oppressed women. Amira, a woman featured in the documentary Girl Rising who was married and had a son by age twelve, shares this message of hope, “I will find a way to endure, to prevail. The future of man lies in me… look me in the eye. I am change” (Robbins). Educating girls will help them escape from upsetting injustices. Girls with eight years of education are four times less likely to be married as children and are twice as likely to send their own children to school (Robbins). Women who are given the gift of an education also often feel an obligation to pay it forward. Suma, a Nepalese girl who was liberated from slavery, now works to make sure no young women endure the hardships she did. Angeline Mugwendere, a Zimbabwean girl whose education was paid for, is now the director of an organization that helps impoverished girls in Africa go to school (Kristof 3).
All countries should join the effort to educate girls worldwide. It has been shown to have incredible effects on the countries where it has taken place. After Bangladesh gained its independence, there was a renewed emphasis on education for both genders. Now, there are more girls in high school than boys. Many of these girls will grow to form the foundation of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank and other important Bengali institutions (Kristof 3). South Korea, which once had an average annual income of $890, has also shown advancements due to education. Following an effort to spend more money on education, South Korea now boasts an improved labor force, near 100% public school enrollment, and an average annual income of $17,000 (“Education and the Developing World”).
There are some that believe that educating girls would be a waste of valuable defense funds. However, educating girls has countless benefits that cannot be overshadowed by even the most successful military campaign. Educating women is an extremely necessary endeavor and one that most modern nations have the capital to promote. France, which has an economy of 1/10th the size of the United States’, donated 600 million more dollars to education in poor countries. The Netherlands, which has an even smaller economy, was also a leader in improving education (“Education and the Developing World”). The United States should follow the lead of these countries and become forerunners in the fight for widespread female education.
Educating girls can irreversibly alter the economic landscape of an entire nation. The education of girls boosts the labor force and stimulates the economy, increasing a nation’s productivity and wealth. Additionally, educated women have smaller families which raises the standard of living and enables better child care. Having an education also provides women in desperate situations like arranged marriage with a means of escape. All humans have a fire within them, a desire to learn and live to their fullest potential. This fire has been suppressed in girls but with an education, they can find a way to light the spark once more.
“Education and the Developing World.” 2012. Print.
Girl Rising. Dir. Richard Robbins. The Documentary Group & Vulcan Productions, 2014. Film.
Kristof, Nicholas. “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?” The New York Times, 10 May 2014. Print.