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How a lack of education adversely affects girls

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” said Edward Everette, the former US Secretary of State.If Eyes Could Talk

Education is power.

It helps individuals to be aware of their rights, to make rational decisions and to protect themselves against abuse and oppression. However, millions of people around the world are being denied access to education and the vast majority are women.

UNICEF believes for every 100 boys that are out of school, there are 115 girls in the same situation across the world. There are several deep rooted social, religious and cultural norms that serve to exclude women from receiving an education and thereby, occupying a position of power and authority.

Lack of education has an impact through out a woman’s life cycle. Even before birth, female fetuses are killed in countries like India and China where the birth of a baby girl is not preferred. This is because a girl would lead to a greater financial burden on the family to get her married and virtually no income. In the middle years, girls face another type of discrimination. They lack access to education. Many of them have to help out with the household work and take care of their siblings instead of going to school or playing. Although the rates of girls’ primary education have improved in most countries, only 43 per cent of girls in the developing world attend secondary school.

Child marriage is another practice prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Parents in these regions tend to get their daughters married off at a very young age to rid themselves of the burden of raising them. Early marriage and lack of knowledge about birth control leads to early pregnancy and parenthood. HIV is also a consequence of illiteracy. Lack of information about HIV and their sexual rights makes women more susceptible to HIV.

Adolescent mothers are less likely to seek medical attention as a result the rates of infant and maternal mortality are higher in these cases. Uneducated mothers are also not aware of the nutritional choices for their children. This leads to problems like malnutrition and anemia among the children. They are less likely to send their own children to school and often do not participate in the labor force or the political process. They rarely have any say in the household affairs. Men often control every aspect of their lives including their freedom, mobility and health care. As they grow into old age, women face the double discrimination of age and gender. They again, totally depend on men as they don’t have any savings and security of their own.

The situation in Central American countries like Nicaragua is no different. UNICEF believes that poverty, lack of education and few opportunities epitomize the lives of many women in this region. The country has exceptionally high maternal mortality rate and adolescent mothers account for 1 in 4 births. Women constitute only 30% of the labor force and they also play a limited role in the political process.

Education is the only tool that can break this intergenerational cycle of oppression, abuse, and poverty of women. Education has the power to transform societies. Educated women are more aware of their rights. They are likely to have fewer and healthier children. They can protect themselves against diseases like HIV. They are more likely to send their children to school. A greater participation of educated women in the economy and political process would lead to a better world today as well as future generations.

Aristotle had once said “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”

It is time for all the people and their governments across the world to realize this and join together to make education an international priority. It is the responsibility of all educated citizens of the world to help our fellow beings live better lives.

– Shamala Pulugurtha

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