Back in July Victoria Beckham shared a video on her social media which asked: what is it that we want, that we really really want? No more child marriage? No more gender violence? An education for girls? The video has been shared over 700,000 times and has been watched over 56 million times, with a reach far greater than anticipated will we see a united effort to combat these problems this International Day of the Girl? Compared to the 90s we are seeing progression – two and a half times more girls are now enrolled in education, and two thirds of the world’s countries now see the same number of girls and boys enrolled in primary school. However, 62 million girls aged 6-15 are still not in school and 16 million of these girls will never get the opportunity to receive an education – a staggering amount, and double that of boys in the same position.
Beyoncé sang about how girls run the world and whether we listen to her or not, she has a point. Educating women has the potential to change the world astronomically; it can decrease poverty, maternal mortality, infant mortality and child marriage. Poverty remains the biggest factor in keeping girls out of school and there are many barriers which prevent girls being in education, namely having to work at home, being married at an early age, the distance and even a lack of simple amenities such as private female toilets.
In a world where people are standing up to take notice of the abuses that disproportionately affect women and girls, such as child marriage, even the most isolated parts of the world are making a change. When girls are forced to marry, their lives are no longer their own to live. They are forced to drop out of school, often becoming mothers before their bodies are ready – girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their twenties, they must leave their families to live with their new husband and typically also his parents. They become tied to a life of domestic labour, childbearing and poverty.
If all girls finished primary school, maternal deaths would be cut by 70% and further still, if all girls finished secondary school, child deaths would be halved.
Educated women are a force to be reckoned with, empowered to have their own voice in their household, they are more likely to have healthier and fewer children, to have them later in life and send them to school. Educated women earn higher incomes, participate more in the formal labour market and marry at a later age, all of which help to lift households out of poverty whilst contributing to the economy.