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Education: Gender Gap and Economics

Investment in girls' education in developing nations raises economic growth and development. Approximately 2/3 of the 300 million children without access to education are girls. Women account for 2/3 of the 880 million illiterate adults in the world. There are extensive studies that document the positive impact of girls' education on economic development. There is a growing understanding amongst policy leaders and international agencies about the critical relationship between the education of girls and economic development. Still, the following factors must be taken into account:

  • Girls' domestic labor--cooking, cleaning, caring for younger children--deters their attendance at school.
  • Child labor as street vendors, sweatshop workers and prostitutes obstructs girls' access to school.
  • Girls' education is not seen as having economic benefit to their immediate families since girls are expected to marry and contribute to their husband's family.
  • Pregnancy often locks girls out of school due to expulsion and lack of childcare.
  • Safety concerns about sexual abuse of female students en route to school or at school keep some girls from attending.
  • Scarcity of public schools that are free and that provide a quality education--especially at the secondary level--is a barrier to educational attainment.

Education has a greater impact on infant and child mortality over improvements in sanitation, modern sector employment or increased income. Education that is free and of quality is a human right that has yet to be actualized in all nations.

Source: Lives Together, Worlds Apart: Men and Women in a Time of Change, United Nations Population Fund, 2000, New York, page 41,