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Educate girls now and you educate a future, empowered mum

Millions of girls continue to experience disadvantage and discrimination that prevents and interrupts not only their right to education, but many of their other fundamental rights.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, women comprise nearly two-thirds of the world’s 759 million illiterate adults (or 796 million according to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report). Girls continue to account for 54% of the out-of-school population.

It was said at last year’s UN Human Rights Council day of discussion on women’s human rights, that progress on gender equality “is so slow it’s unlikely to be achieved before 2040.” That is, 25 years later than the 2015 Millennium Development Goal 3 mark on gender parity. That’s an awful lot of time and a generation of girls and women.

“Gender parity in education is a human right, a foundation for equal opportunity and a source of economic growth, employment creation and productivity,” states this year’s education Global Monitoring Report. “Countries that tolerate high levels of gender inequality pay a high price for undermining the human potential of girls and women, diminishing their creativity and narrowing their horizons. Although there has been progress towards gender parity, many poor countries will not achieve the target without radical shifts of policy and priorities in education planning.”

It’s true that much has already been achieved in getting closer to reaching gender equality and securing women’s rights, yet the daily realities faced by girls and women everywhere — from discrimination, to continuous barriers in accessing their fundamental rights, to sexual violence — shows us there’s so much more that needs to happen.

Educate and empower women, and their children are more likely to survive and be literate

Yesterday, on International Women’s Day, Save the Children highlighted that every year, nearly 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth, and over 8 million children die before reaching their fifth birthday. Investment in women as community health workers can play a major role in dramatically reducing these figures.

It’s equally important to make a clearer link between health interventions and the education of future mothers, many of whom are today’s girls, and tomorrow’s women.

Maternal education is one of the strongest factors influencing children’s prospects for survival. Some of our interventions prove that it has great benefits for women’s survival and wellbeing and their children’s development. “Education improves child and maternal health because it equips women to process information about nutrition and illness, and to make choices and take greater control over their lives,” the Global Health Report states.

Given the high rates of early marriage (often before girls have moved from primary to secondary school), stronger community-based interventions should target traditional practices that continue to deprive girls of their right to education, with knock-on effects for the community as a whole.

Girls who have been to school for a significant amount of time become drivers for positive social change and when they are able to work, they are more likely than boys to invest most of it in their families and communities. Moreover, education will empower them to decide when they are ready to have children.

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