As today marks the inaugural United Nation’s International Day of Girl Child, a day to promote girls’ human rights, let’s reflect on why it matters to invest in girls.
Study after study has shown that education for girls and women has ripple effects within the family and across societies. Girls who have been educated are more likely to marry later in life, have smaller and healthier families, and have greater job prospects.
For instance, when a girl in a developing country receives 7 or more years of education, she marries 4 years later and has fewer children. Later marriage gives young women more control over their lives — one in seven girls in developing countries marries before the age of 15, and 38 percent marry before age 18. Those who marry younger are more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
Education also boosts girls’ economic prospects: an extra year in primary school increases future wages by 10 to 20 percent, and every additional year a girl spends in secondary school lifts her income by 15 to 25 percent. Women who earn their own money are also more likely to spend their family’s income on essential goods such as food, as opposed to leisure goods like tobacco.
All these statistics and facts point to one conclusion: investing in education for girls is an essential step to socioeconomic advancement in developing countries.
While the tragic story of Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old girl from the Swat Valley in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban because of her courageous campaign for girls’ education, reminds us of the challenges that come with advancing girls and women’s rights, it also reinforces its importance. In order for any country to reach peace and prosperity, it must empower girls to become healthy and successful mothers, earners, and leaders.