As everyone has seen in the news recently, the Taliban seizing back control of Afghanistan has raised girls’ education into the spotlight. The Taliban stated they will allow education “within the limits of Islam”. This is, of course, deliberately vague. Women all over the country fear for the worst as men with guns parade around the streets of Kabul.
The education of girls is an effective method of easing all manner of social issues – as has been proven time and time again across the globe. This is not to say that boys don’t matter, just that for a plethora of societal and historical reasons, girls’ education has sometimes taken a backseat.
Below I’ve summarised four key social concerns surrounding the issue, as well as how a consistent and proper education can help alleviate some of the many problems experienced by women around the world today:
When girls learn how to read and write research suggests they live longer, healthier lives. They are much less likely to become child brides, teenage mums or suffer domestic violence. Education’s links to maternal mortality can come in different forms. It may be that educated women are more aware of simple and low-cost practices to maintain hygiene. Other reasons include ability to react to symptoms like bleeding or high blood pressure, more likely to access information on abortion and more willing to accept treatment.
Educating girls is also an excellent way to combat poverty. Women who finish secondary school can expect to earn double the wage of someone who never entered education. This degree of financial independence allows for a level of personal autonomy not available to some women even as recently as the 1970s or 80s.
Women who spend more time in school generally choose to have smaller families. This is the main reason why global fertility rates have fallen from five children per woman in 1960 to 2.5 today. In poorer countries, uneducated women may have more of babies because infant mortality is still high and the family needs extra hands to stay afloat. If women are educated, however, they have fewer children so they can afford to keep them in school for longer.
Children experience a net benefit as well: they are more likely to be vaccinated and more likely to reach their teen years. If every women finished secondary school child deaths by fifty percent. Children born of educated mothers are much more likely to get a good education and a good job themselves. This then begins a virtuous cycle within families.
It’s clear to everyone that female education is more important than ever; we need only look at Afghanistan in the news to see how desperate the situation can get. The waste of potential and the damage that is likely be caused nationwide to the next generation is too great to overlook.
Considering the sector outlook as well, everyone’s favourite issue – COVID-19 – made matters even worse everywhere, and many countries closed schools for months. Therefore, many believe, myself included, that the resulting educational poverty caused may never be resolved – not only in Afghanistan, but across the globe.
Girls’ education strengthens economies and reduces inequality. It contributes to more stable, resilient societies that give all individuals – including boys and men – the opportunity to fulfil their potential.