Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Article 26.1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Although education is a human right. Inequality in access to education is a fact around the world. 61 million primary school aged teens are currently not enrolled in school, and almost half of these adolescents will never have the chance to get an education. Girls, in many parts of the world, are less likely than boys to go to school. The gender divide in education is high in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (UNICEF).

What we know is that education is essential to beat poverty. Education gives girls skills and information that enhances their ability to provide for their families in the future. An educated girl has a greater chance of living a healthy life and ensuring her children and families live a healthier life. She would also have the possibility to contribute to a strengthened workforce in her society and human capital in her country, leading to positive developmental outcomes for her nation as a whole.

Yet, although we can discuss the many benefits of girls receiving an education, there are several barriers standing in the way for girls to go to school. Below, I will mention a few. You can also check out our infographic.

Child marriage

One in every four girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the developing world (excluding China) is currently married!

The World Health Organization estimates that 39 thousand child marriages occur every single day and that 14 million girls get married every year.

Girls who are married off before the age of 18 are seen as child brides. They are more likely to drop out of school and not have the chance to continue an education. Child marriage is a grave human rights violation in itself, that may include violence, rape, heavy household work and early pregnancies. As child marriage is often associated with a girl’s discontinuation of education, it becomes a human rights violation that limits a girl’s ability to further develop her skills for the future. See Girls’ Globe blogger Diane Fender’s post on Child Marriage


In Africa, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls (15-19 years old).

Child marriage often leads to early child-bearing, often before the girl’s body is fully ready to carry and deliver a baby. Girls under the age of 15 have a significant higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties. When a girl becomes pregnant her life changes and as she has a baby, her possibility to continue her education is minimal.


In many parts of the world girls drop out of school when they get their periods as they do not have access to clean water, sanitation or hygiene.

How can such a natural thing as having your period stop you from attending school? See Girls’ Globe blogger Elisabeth Epstein’s post on Menstruation, Girls’ Globe blogger Jordan Teague’s post on WASH and HEEALS India’s post on sanitation and education.


Over 150 million girls under the age of eighteen have experienced some form of sexual violence.

Girls face a daily battle of exposure to extreme violence and discrimination. Sexual violence, teasing, harassment and threats is a common issue in schools for many girls, hindering them from getting an education. For many girls, their first sexual experience is through rape and abuse. Violence remains a barrier for girls receiving an adequate opportunity for education.

There are several more barriers that stand in the way for girls access to an education, such as poverty, high school fees, gender discrimination, social norms, distance to the school, standard of education and access to teachers. What we know for sure is that girls have the right to an education, and it is our responsibility to make sure that they do have access to a safe environment where they can learn, grow and develop. Education is key for the prevention of child marriage and early pregnancy.

What do you think stands in the way for girls’ access to education?

Tweet us @girlsglobe, using #girlseducation.

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