Four ways that educating a girl can change the world

September 8, 2017
Written by Sydney Schultz
Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith, Panos Pictures

As of 2016, over 130 million girls worldwide were not in school. That’s a big problem, because education is one of the best tools we have to bring about equality and an end to extreme poverty.

A sense of excitement hangs in the air as new pencils are purchased and backpacks selected… It’s back to school season here in the States, but for millions of children across the world education is not a given or even an option — especially if you’re a girl. That’s a situation we need to change. Here’s why:

1. Education can improve a girl’s health — and her children’s health, too

USAID found that girls with a basic education are three times less likely to contract HIV, and are generally more aware of sexually transmitted disease prevention and safe sex. It also found that the children of educated mothers are twice as likely to survive past the age of five.

Safiatu and her baby in Tonkolili, Sierra Leone

Rates of teen pregnancy are high in the Tonkolili district of Sierra Leone. Concern is working with schools to educate young men and women about sexual and reproductive health. The program also teaches critical thinking and encourages students to carefully consider their options. Photo: Kieran McConville

2. A girl who is educated tends to delay marriage and have a smaller family

According to UNFPA, one in every three girls in developing countries is married before the age of 18. But did you know that when a girl receives seven or more years of education, her wedding date is delayed by an average of four years?

School lessons in makeshift shelters in Nepal

After Dumsijhang lower secondary school was destroyed by the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Concern organized lessons in makeshift shelters. Photo: Deborah Underdown

Studies also show that educated women tend to have fewer children and have them later in life, which generally leads to better outcomes for both her and her kids.

3. A girl who is educated has greater earning potential

Educated women are more likely to work and own their own businesses, and they generally earn higher incomes throughout their lives. According to UNESCO, a single year of primary education can increase a girl’s wages later in life by up to 20%. 

Studies also show that when women have more money, they tend to invest it back into their family. The UN found that increasing the share of household income controlled by women changes spending in ways that benefit children.

Elizabeth at school in Kenya

Elizabeth attends St. Francis School in Nairobi, Kenya, thanks to a cash transfer provided by Concern to her parents, Nancy and Eric Karanja, who work on the Dandora dumpsite. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos Pictures

4. Educating a girl makes her whole country wealthier

It’s not just a woman’s immediate family that benefits from her education. Studies have shown that when 10% more girls in a given country attend school, its gross domestic product is increased by an average of 3% — which can make a huge difference in a developing economy.

Concern’s work in education

Concern Worldwide has worked to promote education in developing countries for over forty years. During that time we have built hundreds of schools and renovated thousands of classrooms, while supporting millions of children in accessing primary education. Find out more.

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