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Friday, June 22, 2007

Educating Girls

International Museum of Women (IMOW) - Motherhood Today web entry

When you were a child, did you ever pull the blankets over your head and call down to your parents, "Do I have to go to school today?" I certainly did. And now that I'm a parent, I occasionally hear the phrase too.
Yet, I was fortunate to be able to take my education for granted.

Around the world, over 80 million children never set foot in a classroom.

And of those children out of school, the majority are girls. The gender gap is especially wide in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, home to almost 80% of humanity's unschooled children. Indeed, around the world, one in every five girls of primary school age is not in school. And for women and girls, education is not just a chance to learn how to read and write, but a shield that may make the crucial difference between life and death.

Research shows that educated girls are better equipped to safeguard their own health. Girls who complete primary school are 50% less likely to be infected by HIV. Educated girls are also more likely to delay marriage and less likely to get pregnant very young, reducing the risk of dying in childbirth while they are still children themselves.

And each year of schooling increases girls' future earning power by 10-20%, empowering them not only to provide for themselves and their families, but pass to the benefits of education and health to their children. Educated mothers are 50% more likely to immunize their children. Children of mothers who can read and write are 50% more likely to live past the age of five. And the education that begins on a mother's lap is more likely to be enhanced in a classroom if that mother has had schooling herself.

Seven years ago, the world's leaders came together and pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals - eight concrete, achievable development targets - no later than 2015. One of these goals is universal primary education for boys and girls. Yet, dozens of countries are actually going backwards instead of forwards. At current rates of progress, 47 million children will still be out of school in 2015 - roughly eight times the entire population of my country, Jordan.

We can do better. The Global Campaign for Education is uniting supporters around the world to lobby lawmakers and governments, raise public awareness, and encourage international institutions to help ensure that every child receives his or her right to an education. You can learn more at www.campaignforeducation.org. Let me know how you are getting involved.