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Education saves mothers’ and children’s lives

Save the Children’s No Child Born to Die campaign is trying to raise awareness and tackle the toll of preventable child deaths. We believe that the improvement of health systems and increased vaccination coverage are vitally important measures for decreasing child mortality. However education, particularly maternal education, is also hugely important.

The Lancet (a medical journal) published a study last year stating, “For every one year increase in the education of women of reproductive age, child mortality decreases by 9.5%.” UNESCO has also found compelling evidence of the link between maternal education and child survival. In addition, much of the past decades dramatic reductions in maternal mortality rates in Bangladesh and Nepal are attributed to the increased schooling of girls.

But it is not only a mother’s health education that brings about improvements in her and her children’s health. Education can lower fertility, increase women’s power in the household, lower rates of domestic violence, and reduce vulnerability to child marriage, urban migration and transactional sex.

So what can we do to support girls to enrol in and complete school?

In addition to providing the financial means and appropriate schooling environment for girls, a change in attitudes towards the value of their education is often necessary. In Southern Sudan, campaigning and awareness-raising about the importance of girls’ education resulted in the female enrolment rate doubling, from 19,740 in 2007, to 30,196 in 2008 in Save the Children programme areas.

As a forthcoming Save the Children report on gender discrimination and child survival highlights, social protection (particularly cash transfers) and creating safe areas for children to play and learn, are also highly effective at increasing girls’ school enrolment and retention.

This blog was written by Nadja Dolata, Save the Children’s Gender and Diversity Adviser, and Jessica Espey, Save the Children’s Research and Policy Adviser.

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