The importance of education for women in developing countries
“Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process.”
—The International Conference on Population and Development ‘Programme of Action’ 1994, paragraph 4.2 (Source: http://www.unfpa.org/gender/empowerment2.htm)
The benefits of education are widely-known to us here in the UK but they’re also vital for developing countries in some of the poorest parts of the world. This is especially true for women and girls, many of whom are often denied the right to attend school while men and boys are more likely to receive at least a basic level of education.
For women, a lack of numeracy, literacy and general life skills limits future prospects of families and decreases their income; reduces the overall quality of health and well-being; it puts women and girls at risk of exploitation and can limit the economic advancement of an entire country.
A woman cannot buy products to sell at the market for long if she does not know if she is selling at the right price to make any money to support her family.
Women are key members of any family and the positive effects of education can create new opportunities and positive change for an entire community. Education is a starting point for improving the lives of many women and their achievements can have a huge impact on their family now and also into the next generation.
It’s believed that access to education, especially secondary schools, if they get there, is a key factor in reducing poverty.
- Studies have shown that educated women:
- Often marry at an older age and have smaller families
- Recognise and understand the importance of healthcare
- Empower themselves with knowledge about their rights and make informed choices
- Gain confidence to improve their lives and avoid exploitation
- Have more influence over the household, find work and control income
- In many countries education is not free as there are not enough free state schools in the poorest regions. Even where free schools are available, students must find their own paper, pencils and cover the cost of the national exams themselves which can be a week’s wage or more. When a family is large, this can make decisions on who goes to school difficult.In South America it is not uncommon to see women in their early twenties still in high school uniform because they had to take time out to look after family. When you miss out a year in many countries, you are expected to complete the work by re-taking the year, even if that means sitting alongside students many years younger. This in itself can be a barrier. I cannot imagine many young people in the UK, who having failed their GCSEs, would voluntarily go back to sit with 14 year olds in the classroom.The concern is what happens to the other girls, with the official school leaving age being 14 in most of the world, many have started families by the time they are 16.Volunteers help fill the teaching gap in poor communities throughout the infant and primary school years. Volunteers have built schools in poorer communities from scratch where there was no school. However until affordable high school education together with school transport is funded by the local government, many of the poorest girls in remote locations will continue to miss out and repeat the cycle of poor education and early pregnancy. There are simply not enough volunteer teachers from overseas to fill the current gap to teach secondary level in the most remote regions and be equipped to support students through the country’s national exams.
- By staying in school until adulthood girls also have a long term goal to work towards. This coupled with increased networking possibilities and information filtered down from teachers who are better qualified means more girls will access higher education and vocational colleges. By leaving school at an earlier age, options are often limited to the world of child care.An educated woman is more likely to ensure that her own children are also enrolled at school so that knowledge and the opportunity for personal improvement grows within the family. They’re also more likely to realise that there are benefits to having a smaller family – such as less mouths to feed, the importance of choice through birth control and being able to attend equally to each child.“There are 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world. They are an undeniable force for social and economic impact. But only if given the opportunity. Around the world, girls are denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. And in being denied an education, society loses one of its greatest and most powerful resources.” (Source: http://malalafund.org/)If you have studied to A level or beyond and would like to teach at Secondary level (11 – 16 yrs) in communities where education is limited please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.
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