1. Increased economic growth
If girls are able to go to school and get an education it means they are more likely to get a job, earn money and produce goods and services. In some developing nations, the World Bank estimates, investing in girls’ education could increase GDP by as much as 10 per cent.
2. Better wages and jobs for women
Girls and young women make up the majority of the world’s unemployed young people who have no education or training. Many girls go to primary school, but if a girl can make it to secondary school, every year they stay in school will eventually boost their wages by 10–20 per cent.
Research also shows that most women invest 90 per cent of their income into providing food, clothing and education for their children and community.
3. It saves the lives of children and their mothers
A 58-country study commissioned by UNESCO showed that universal primary education for girls would reduce child mortality by 15 per cent.
Going to school means girls have fewer pregnancies and are less likely to give birth as teenagers. The effect of girls’ education is greater than the effect of some typical health interventions.
4. Smaller and more sustainable families
Women with higher levels of education have fewer children, and they are more likely to give birth for the first time later in life and have children more than two years apart. Specifically, reducing the number of girls giving birth before the age of 17 would promote smaller, healthier families.
If all women had a primary education, early births would drop by 10 per cent; and if all women had a secondary education, early births would fall by a further 10 percent.
5. Healthier and better-educated children
Better educated mothers have healthier and better-educated children who are more likely to: benefit from adequate nutrition and immunizations; attend school longer and more regularly; and study more frequently. On average, each additional year a mother attends school leads to her children staying longer at school.
6. Reduced rates of HIV/AIDS and malaria
Girls’ education is sometimes called the “social vaccine” against HIV/AIDS because there is a direct link between girls who stay at school and a significant reduction in the disease.
Better-educated girls have more knowledge about how HIV is contracted and spread.
If all young adults completed primary education, we could expect 700,000 fewer new cases of HIV infection each year, or 7 million fewer in a decade.
As for malaria, if all mothers completed secondary education the odds that children would carry malaria parasites would be 36 per cent lower.
7. Fewer child marriages
A high-quality education for girls is a critical strategy to prevent child marriage and improve the lives of girls who are already married. Across 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with no education are up to six times more likely to marry as children than girls with a secondary education.
Child marriage not only curtails girls’ education but also puts girls at a higher risk of early pregnancy and complications during childbirth.
8. Empowered women
Research from the World Bank and Plan International shows that educated girls and women are better able to make decisions and have choices. They are less likely to accept domestic violence, they’re able to make decisions about how to run their homes and they can move around more freely in their communities.
9. Political leadership
Whether it’s in the home, community or leadership of their country, educated women are more likely to volunteer and become role models if they have been to school or had some vocational training. In leadership roles, women are more likely to advocate for decisions and outcomes that benefit their family and community life, such as improved education and social services.
10. Reduced harm to families from natural disasters and climate change
Around the world, women with higher levels of education are better able to handle a crisis. They are able to protect themselves and their families from the effect of natural disasters because they can provide a better quality of care for their children and are better able to prepare, adapt and bounce back. Deaths due to disaster could be reduced by 60 per cent by 2050 if 70 per cent of women aged 20–40 complete primary school.
The past year has been a big one for girls’ education: from the tragic shooting and inspiring recovery of Pakistani teenager Mahala Yousafzai to the release of Girl Rising by famed documentary filmmaker Richard Robbins, stories of young women struggling to go to school in developing countries have reached new audiences and lent fresh energy to the movement for gender equity in education.
Alongside those stories is a growing body of research showing the positive effects that girls’ education has not just for them, but also for their families, communities and countries. While we don’t yet live in a world where every girl has the opportunity to go to school, we do have a crowd of numbers telling us why we should.
Here are five numerical arguments for girls’ education we think you should know:
1. Educated women boost income growth. Through a study of 100 different countries, the World Bank found that for every 1% increase in the proportion of women with secondary education, a country’s annual per capita income growth rate increased by about 0.3%. In many developing countries that’s a significant boost.
2. With the same amount of secondary education as boys, girls earn more. The average girl with a secondary education has an 18% return in future wages, while boys have a 14% return.
3. Infant mortality rates fall when girls’ education level climbs. Children of women with a primary education are 40% more likely to survive past age 5. Each additional year of schooling for a girl lowers infant mortality by 5-10%.
4. Girls are better able to plan their future families. Girls in developing countries who receive seven years of schooling have more choices in life: marrying an average of four years later and having 2.2 fewer children.
5. Educated mothers raise educated children. Educated mothers are twice as likely to send their children to primary school as their uneducated counterparts.
Help make an education a reality for all girls: $13 pays for a girl in a developing country to go to school for a year. Donate today through Girl Up.