Education’s importance has been emphasized by a number of international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.
The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, recognized that women’s literacy is key to empowering women’s participation in decision making in society and to improving families’ well-being. In addition, the United Nations has articulated the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include goals for improved education, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. The MDGs emphasize education’s essential role in building democratic societies and creating a foundation for sustained economic growth.
Girl Child Education contributes directly to the growth of national income by improving the productive capacities of the labor force. A recent study of 19 developing countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia, concluded that a country’s long-term economic growth increases by 3.7 percent for every year the adult population’s average level of schooling rises. Thus, Girl Child Education is a key strategy for reducing poverty, especially in Africa. According to the United Nations Population Fund, countries that have made social investments in health, family planning, and education have slower population growth and faster economic growth than countries that have not made such investments.
In the increasingly open global economy, countries with high rates of illiteracy and gender gaps in educational attainment tend to be less competitive, because foreign investors seek labor that is skilled as well as inexpensive. Various global trends pose special challenges to women who are illiterate or have limited education. Economies’ export orientation and the growing importance of small and medium-sized enterprises create opportunities for women, but women need the appropriate education and training to take full advantage of these opportunities.
In addition, the benefits of female education for women’s empowerment and gender equality are broadly recognized:
- As female education rises, fertility, population growth, infant and child mortality fall and family health improves.
- Increases in girls’ secondary school enrollment are associated with increases in women’s participation in the labor force and their contributions to household and national income.
- Women’s increased earning capacity, in turn, has a positive effect on child nutrition.
- Children — especially daughters — of educated mothers are more likely to be enrolled in school and to have higher levels of educational attainment.
- Educated women are more politically active and better informed about their legal rights and how to exercise them.
African countries generally have lower levels of women’s education and labor force participation than other regions with similar income levels. The interaction between the region’s economic structure and its conservative culture, in which traditional gender roles are strongly enforced, is largely responsible. Men in Africa Continent are more likely to have direct access to wage employment andcontrol over wealth, while women are largely economically dependent upon male family members.