Today is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the progress made by womankind and to make a push to create a more inclusive world regardless of gender. An issue integral to this cause is gender equality in education.
Even in the 21st century, girls are still less likely to step foot in a classroom to learn to read and write. Just 40 percent of countries provide girls with an equal access to education, and women make up two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Much of this inequality is in sub-Saharan Africa, where less than half of women can read in over 12 countries.
It almost seems ridiculous to try to argue the benefits of allowing half the world’s population to receive a decent education, but it becomes all the more clear when you realize how these problems are inseparably intertwined with a whole range of bigger issues.
Whether you’re a basement-dwelling Internet troll or the Chancellor of Germany, this affects us all. Study after study has shown that gender equality in education has far-reaching social and economic benefits, as well as providing empowerment for the individual.
One study found that female education reduces the likelihood of children’s deaths. The research found that each additional year of a mother’s education reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5 to 10 percent, depending on the country.
Another found that a child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past age 5. On top of that, educated women are less likely to marry early and more likely to have smaller, healthier families. In turn, they’re then more likely to send their children to school.
Prevention of HIV and AIDS is also massively helped through universal access to basic education. The UNAIDS Gap Report 2014 outlined how increasing women’s educational achievement is linked to more success in HIV prevention strategies.
“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.
As well as all these benefits for public health, it’s estimated 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.
This all stands regardless of the remarkable achievements by individual women in science, technology, arts, culture, etc that have only been made possible through their access to education.
Quite simply, a world with better gender equality is a better world for all.