The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4, “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”, is essential not only for the growth of communities but the overarching need to educate women and girls. Looking at the 10 the targets under Goal 4, it is clear that a gender and equality perspective has been taken into account – for example, Goal 4.5 calls for ending gender disparities at all levels of education by 2030, and the language of many of the targets particularly talks of “girls and boys” and “men and women”. Still, despite the known inequalities in education between girls and boys, many people question as to whether or not the gendered perspective is necessary when speaking on the right to education.
When looking at the global status of girls and women, it becomes glaringly apparent that one of the major reasons underpinning the broader problem of gender inequality is the unequal access to education facing girls and women. Denying girls and women of their right to education impedes on them achieving progress in other areas. Currently about 62 Million girls around the world are not in school. Of these girls about half are adolescent. It is common in many countries for girls to either drop out or be taken out of school before they reach the 6th grade. Keeping girls from school often leads to the violation of many of their other basic rights, for example in the form of child labor or early marriage – and, later in life, hinders women’s access to meaningful work and ability to earn a decent income. Education isn’t just about education, but about girls’ and women’s ability to take control of their lives and their futures outside of the school as well.
Educating a girl results in something refereed to as “the multiplier effect”. Educating girls has been proven to have a positive effect on a country’s GDP, and girls and women reinvest on average reinvest 90 percent of her income into their family. This investment means not only a generation of stronger women but stronger, healthier and more productive families and communities. Countries in which girls are enrolled in secondary school have lower rates of maternal and infant mortality, lower rates of HIV/AIDS and better child nutrition. The education of girl results in the education of nation.
Educating a girl has the potential to catalyze success for many of the other ambitious Goals and targets of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Agenda. When girls are educated they have the ability to break the cycle of poverty through the skills and knowledge they gain, and girls’ education has been proven to be one of the best ways to protect girls from child marriage and early pregnancies. The “Girl Effect” estimated that if every Ethiopian Girl finished school it would add almost US$4 billion to the Country’s Economy. This is money that can be invested in health services, environmental sustainability, improving institutions and infrastructure and the preservation of resources. Educating girls also allows for those girls to become leaders in their society and work toward the other Sustainable Development Goals. As we look into the future, towards the achievement of the SDG goals by 2030, it should be obvious to everyone that these goals cannot be reached without the participation of girls and women – and that these Goals will never be realized until every single girl and woman has full and equal access to education, everywhere in the world.
Illustrations for the SDG campaign have been made for Girls’ Globe by artist Elina Tuomi.