“Investment in the education of girls may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world”
Editorial by Montse Rafel, Director, Dianova International
The World Population Day has been observed for more than 25 years as a way to focus attention on the importance of population issues. This year’s theme, ‘investing in teenage girls’, is especially relevant: after Malala Yousafzai became last year the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee in history, many women, inspired by her courage and her dedication, began to raise their voices to call the world’s attention to the countless barriers that prevent women from realizing their full potential.
Teenage girls around the worldface enormous challenges. Many are considered by their communities or parents to be ready for marriage and motherhood. Many are forced from school, damaging their future prospects. Even among girls who stay in school, access to basic information about their health, human rights and reproductive rights can be hard to come by, leaving them vulnerable to illness, injury and exploitation. These challenges are exacerbated among marginalized girls, such as members of ethnic minorities or those living in poverty or remote areas. (Excerpt from UN web site)
Yet it is essential to emphasize that when teenage girls are empowered, when they know about their rights and are given the tools to succeed, they become agents of positive change in their communities. And this is no wishful thinking but hard facts: recent research in human development has established a strong link between women’s education and social and economic development in impoverished regions.
Both individuals and countries benefit from women’s education, not only in terms of profitability and economic growth, but also in terms of social benefits (decreased fertility rates, lower infant and maternal mortality rates, better quality of life, better civic participation, less domestic violence, etc.) As economist Lawrence Summers put it: “investment in the education of girls may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world.”
In richer countries, while the situation has improved over the years, there is still a long way to go to close the gender gap, whether in education, on the job or in the family.And we all need to know that the case for the social and economic empowerment of women goes way beyond a demand for social justice. It’s about capitalizing on the full array of women’s creativity, talent, strength and intelligence to ensure a better future for everyone.
Closing the gender gap, not only is it the right thing to do, it is also the most sensible thing to do.