|Defeating Hunger and Ignorance - Food Aid for the Education of Girls and Women (UNESCO - WFP, 34 p.)|
«EDUCATING A BOY IS EDUCATING A PERSON... EDUCATING A GIRL IS EDUCATING A NATION»
One still meets people (including amongst decision makers), who, in all good faith, question the necessity of educating girls or make ironic remarks about female education. The benefits of educating girls and women can therefore never be over-stressed.
Key advantages of womens education
A respect for equity demands a special effort to do away with all inequality between the sexes in the field of education. Gender inequality lies at the root of the lasting situations of inferiority that affect women at every stage of their lives. And yet, the strategic importance of womens education for development is today acknowledged by all experts. A very clear correlation has been established between the educational level of women and the overall improvement in the populations health and nutrition and the drop in fertility rates.
Source: Learning: The Treasure Within. Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century. Paris, UNESCO, 1996.
It is generally recognised today that the education of girls and women is one of the wisest and most profitable investments in social and economic terms. The benefits are numerous.
The first person to benefit from education is the woman or girl herself, as an individual and as a member of society. But the positive effects are felt also by her family (husband, children, parents), the community, society and the whole country.
There is a saying in Central Africa: education opens the girls eyes; in fact, her eyes are opened to several aspects:
The girl as an individual
Education leads to greater self-esteem and self-confidence, and opens up new horizons for girls, enabling them to discover their own potential, to develop themselves fully and increase their resistance to gender discrimination.
Education helps girls and women to have a positive impact on their families: better childcare (vaccination, schooling, etc.), better nutrition, decrease in child mortality, better communication with the children and other family members. A recent study shows that the decrease in child malnutrition between 1970 and 1995 is attributable to the tune of 44% to the improvement in female education.
When womens education is combined with an improvement in their status, they account for over 50% of the reduction of child malnutrition.3 An educated woman is better equipped to increase family income and resolve family problems satisfactorily. Her familys wellbeing thus gets a big boost.
3.Time for change: food aid and development. Enabling development. Rome, World Food Programme, 1999.
The community and society
Education heightens womens awareness of the important role they can play in the community and society to find solutions to problems that impede development and social stability. Survival rates, schooling and community productivity increase as a result of womens education, with a corresponding decrease in mother and infant mortality rates. The community and society thus become more prosperous.
With the awareness of her role as citizen, an educated woman can play a more dynamic role in addressing the economic challenges faced by her country, in the areas of agricultural production, food self-sufficiency, the fight against environmental degradation, the use and conservation of water and energy.
Education alone is obviously not enough to solve the worlds problems, but it remains an essential factor in any development activity.