Today is the world’s first ever International Day of the Girl.
So what does it mean to be a girl living in extreme poverty?
It means less access to medical facilities, lower access to basic education, lower likelihood of starting or finishing school, and lower opportunities for meaningful work. It means a higher likelihood of being food deprived and a higher likelihood of experiencing violence and sexual harassment.
For girls, discrimination and a lack of power are two of the main underlying causes of child poverty. Therefore, in order to tackle poverty, the empowerment of girls is vital. Healthy, educated and empowered girls are more likely to lift themselves, their families and their countries out of poverty.
One key component of this empowerment is education that provides girls with skills, knowledge and promotes greater gender equality.
Educating girls can make a world of difference. Every extra year of a mother’s schooling is estimated to cut her infant’s chances of mortality by between 5 and 10 per cent. With 9 years education, girls are not only more likely to be literate but also more likely to be healthy, understand their rights and be a force for change. They’re also less likely to experience violence, marry young, or have babies whilst they themselves are children.
But educating girls also has flow on effects for communities and nations. Girls with an education are more likely to reinvest their income back into their families, communities and countries. And an increase of even just 1 per cent in girls’ secondary education attendance, adds 0.3 per cent to a country's GDP.
Clearly, investing in women and girls is not only an act of justice but an investment in health, wealth and development.
Unfortunately there are still a number of barriers that make it hard for girls to get an education. These issues include violence in and around schools, discrimination at school, poor nutrition & health, burdens of domestic work, poor reproductive and sexual health, and economic instability at home. This Gender violence can include physical or sexual abuse, verbal threats and intimidation, and can come from both teachers and students, having an adverse effect on achievement, causing absenteeism and sometimes resulting in girls leaving school altogether.
To address these issues, we must involve and empower girls and women, as well as educating boys and men on the role they can play in tackling gender issues.
If you want to support girls’ education, and empower girls to transform their own lives and the world around them, there are also things you can do...