|Defeating Hunger and Ignorance - Food Aid for the Education of Girls and Women (UNESCO - WFP, 34 p.)|
The under-education of women and girls has incalculable consequences for people and for countries. They can be felt in every sector and in all aspects of life: at the level of individual, the family, the economy, the society, institutions and politics.
At the individual level, the lack of education diminishes opportunities for young girls to improve their living standards and take care of their health or to find a stable and well-paying job. An uneducated woman also has less self-confidence. Insufficiency or absence of education maintains women in a position of inferiority. An uneducated woman runs more risks in terms of health and hygiene than her educated counterpart: she is more vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS and clandestine abortions that can be fatal. The burden of domestic work as well as numerous unplanned pregnancies and births accelerates the ageing process in women.
The under-education of women and girls has disastrous consequences for the family. An uneducated woman is often not aware of the basic rules of hygiene, health and nutrition for her children.
For example, she is unlikely to get her children vaccinated. She would also tend to transmit to her children, particularly her daughters, her own behavioural patterns including certain traditional practices harmful to womens health and which continue to be observed in the society she lives in. In several African countries for instance, female circumcision and force-feeding of women continue to be transmitted and implemented by women. The main opponents of educated women involved in the struggle against circumcision are uneducated women from certain sections of society. The same applies to the ill treatment meted out to widows by the female kin of the late husband. That women perpetuate traditional practices harmful to the health of women and girls is one of the consequences of female under-education.
The lack or insufficiency of education explains the low productivity of women. Torn in all directions throughout the day, between work at home and in the fields, women tend to count on child labour, particularly that of their daughters. Sub-Saharan Africa, where a large number of women and girls are excluded from education, has the highest rate (20%) of female child labour in the 10 -14 years age group. These girls are usually involved in typically feminine tasks that are not included in the macro-economic policies of states.
An uneducated woman with her baggage of prejudices and other stereotypes biased against women and girls cannot fully participate in community life. She tends to keep away and leave men to take various decisions affecting the community.
Institutions and Politics
At the institutional and political levels, female under-education accounts for the continuing low representation of educated women in high levels of public administration and government decision-making. However, contrary to what some conservative circles think and fear, educating women and girls has advantages not only for close family members but also for society as a whole.