A recently released 2013/4 report from UNESCO affiliate, Education for All Global Monitoring Report, emphasizes the importance of women’s education.

Poverty. Child mortality. Disease. Malnutrition.

Recent trends suggest that the solution to these worldwide plagues rests in increasing education, especially the education of women.

The recently released 2013/2014 Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFAGMR) emphasized the critical changes that increasing women’s education will have for global society and well-being.

“Educating girls and women, in particular, has unmatched transformative power. As well as boosting their own chances of getting jobs, staying healthy and participating fully in society, educating girls and young women has a marked impact on the health of their children and accelerates their countries’ transition to stable population growth,” the report said.

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The importance of educating women and girls is receiving greater attention as more evidence of education’s benefits continues to emerge.

An article published in the Guardian in June 2013 noted the phenomenon associated with increasing women’s education based off research conducted in Afghanistan.

The writer gathered data on over 80 “indicators,” which included literacy, sanitation, health, and nutrition.

“The single greatest predictor for nearly every single indicator was the mother’s education level. It was such a glaringly evident pattern, you could set your watch by it,” the author, Lauryn Oates, wrote.

The data from EFAGMR clearly indicates that more education increases the livelihood of all people. However, the global rates of illiteracy for men and women remain high.

EFAGMR stated that there are 774 million illiterate adults worldwide. Women make up almost two-thirds of this number.

Among the youth population, girls make up 54% of the global population of children out of school.

The statistics for women have remained, in most cases, relatively stagnant over the last decade. In addition, there is continuing disparity between the progress of education for boys and girls. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, “the richest boys will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086 there is at least a 50-year gap between when all the richest boys complete lower secondary school and when all the poorest girls do so,” the report said.

If education, particularly women’s education, is so clearly a counteractive to chronic situations of child mortality and disease, then why is raising education worldwide not being pursued?

A potential reason is that educating a population is a long term task, one without immediate apparent results. As such, people are less likely to give to or be enthused by the education cause. People like to be part of something that brings about immediate results.

Oates from the Guardian, however, urged for governments to consider giving more aid to developing educational goals.

“Education is just one of many priorities, but it shouldn’t be. It should get special status because, while female literacy is one of the slowest areas of progress over the past decade, it has the most to offer,” Oates wrote.

“Educate mothers, and you empower women and save children’s lives.”- Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

There is some global buy-in to fighting for better education rates worldwide.

UNESCO affiliated EFAGMR is tasked with releasing its report as an update in the progress of movement towards fulfilling the “Education for All” goals by 2015.

The report says that “not a single goal will be achieved globally by 2015.”

If education really is such a potent force for change, then the world must change from a mentality of providing short-term assistance to committing to longer-term projects, like educating the global illiterate.

The Specifics: Ten Benefits of Education for Women

Going deeper, below are listed ten specific ways the EFAGMR found that education fights chronic issues like child mortality, disease, and other health issues.

1.   “Education can help narrow gender gaps in work opportunities and pay.” For example, “in Argentina and Jordan, for instance, among people with primary education, women earned around half the average wage of men, while among those with secondary education, women earned around two-thirds as much as men.”

2.  “Educated mothers are better informed about specific diseases, so they can take measures to prevent them.”

3.  “In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a fifth of the world’s malaria-related deaths occur, the education of the household head or the mother increased the probability that the family slept under a bed net.” This significantly reduces malaria rates, a disease that daily kills children and impacts families.

4.  “A mother’s education is just as crucial for her own health as it is for her offspring’s. Every day, almost 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths, saving 189,000 lives per year.”

5.  “Education – especially education that empowers women – is key to tackling malnutrition, the underlying cause of more than 45% of child deaths.”

6. “Educated mothers are more likely to know about appropriate health and hygiene practices at home, and have more power to ensure that household resources are allocated so as to meet children’s nutrition needs.”

7. “Education also helps overcome gender biases in political behavior to deepen democracy.”

8.  “Ensuring that girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways to prevent child marriage.”

9.  “Women with more education tend to have fewer children, which benefits them, their families and society more generally. One reason for this is because education allows women to have a greater influence on family size.”

10.  “Staying in school longer also gives girls more confidence to make choices that avert the health risks of early births and births in quick succession.”

Feature photo courtesy of knowledge.allianz.com