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Girls' Education

Girls compose 2/3 of all the children excluded from basic education in the world.

Often girls do not attend school due to the lack of schools and quality education, domestic labor and other forms of child labor, and a general attitude that girls should not be educated.

[EI-ILO Brochure on World Day Against Child Labour 2009, "Give girls a chance: End child labour"]

The World Bank, United Nations agencies, and development organizations have identified the education of girls as the key factor to economic and social development. There is a growing understanding amongst policy leaders and international agencies about the critical relationship between the education of girls and economic development.

  • Education has a greater impact on infant and child mortality over improvements in sanitation, modern sector employment or increased income.
  • Improving the education system for girls is an investment in the system of education, thus benefiting boys also.

However, education for girls’ cannot be improved without addressing root inequities and gender discrimination throughout education systems. Girls’ education is complex; interventions must take into account these complexities, such as a family’s loss of a girl’s labor or income when a girl goes to school.

  • 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.
  • Safety concerns about sexual abuse of female students en route to school or at school keep some girls from attending.
  • Pregnancy, even as a result of sexual abuse, often locks girls out of school due to expulsion and lack of childcare.
  • 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 for All 2000 Assessment: Girls’ Education (Draft), written by Karin Hyde for UNICEF, April 2000.

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

Education International