On 7 April, World Health Day, Education International reaffirms its commitment to the education of women and girls around the world.
If every woman in sub-Saharan Africa had secondary education, 1.8 million lives could have been saved between 2003 and 2008 – lives of under-5-year-olds who died from malnutrition and illness. These numbers were published by UNESCO in its Global Monitoring Report 2011. The report argues that education improves child and maternal health because it equips women with information about nutrition, illness and infection, and empowers them to make their own choices and take control of their lives. Maternal education is one of the strongest factors influencing children’s prospects for survival.
Yet, being female is still one of the main reasons for missing out on education, together with being poor and living in a conflict area. In 26 countries, only 90 girls for every 100 boys attend primary school, and the numbers are lower for secondary and even lower for higher education. Two thirds of the 796 million illiterate adults worldwide are women.
EI Deputy Secretary General Jan Eastman said, “Education of women and girls is not just a human right, it is also a catalyst for overcoming so many other problems which are paralysing human development. It gives women the tools to take control, to stand up against discrimination and violence. It slows the spread of HIV/AIDS, reduces family size and increases family health. Educating women and girls saves and improves lives.”
Eastman further noted: “Small measures, such as abolishing fees, providing school meals, or financial incentives for families to send their daughters to school, can make a huge difference. Girls need safe dormitories and separate hygiene infrastructure, especially in their teenage years.” EI and its member organisations are organising projects and campaigns to realise every girl’s right to education. For example, EI member organisation CTERA in Argentina is conducting special programmes to support pregnant and parenting women to continue their education.
EI Solidarity and Development Coordinator Nicolas Richards said, “Education For All and the Millennium Development Goals can still be reached if we see full commitment. But sadly, as shown by recently published data from the EU and OECD, EU countries are not reaching their own target of contributing 0.56 percent of their gross national incomes to development aid. Instead of celebrating achievements, we observe growing instability, military conflicts, and slow progress in important fields such as health and education goals.”