Despite progress in recent years, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in education systems throughout their lives. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 34 million girls of lower secondary school age were not enrolled in school in 2011.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest proportion of countries with gender parity: only 2 out of 35 countries. Furthermore, many countries will still not have reached gender parity. On current trends, it is projected that 70 per cent of countries will have achieved parity in primary education, and 56 per cent of countries will have achieved parity in lower secondary education.
Girls’ education is both an intrinsic right and a critical lever to reaching other development objectives. Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty:
- educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will;
- less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies;
- and are more likely to send their children to school.
Girls’ education is essential to the achievement of quality learning relevant to the 21st century, including girls’ transition to and performance in secondary school and beyond. Adolescent girls that attend school delay marriage and childbearing, are less vulnerable to disease including HIV and AIDS, and acquire information and skills that lead to increased earning power.
Evidence shows that the return to a year of secondary education for girls correlates to a 25 per cent increase in wages later in life.
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