Globally, more than 130 million girls are out of school, meaning they are not being educated. We all have women in our lives that we care about. How would it feel if your loved one was deprived of their rights, including the right to educate themselves, just because they were female? Unfortunately, this is the reality in many countries throughout the world, despite the fact that statistics have shown that an educated female population benefits not just the individual herself, but society as a whole.
But before we can discuss this lack of education amongst girls in particular, let’s get to the root of why an education is so important. Education is a very basic and critical necessity for everyone simply because it helps one acquire the skills necessary for self-reliance and empowerment, leading to a happy and prosperous life. Education is critical for children because they are the future of the world. Therefore, why is there a lack of education for girls? There isn’t one single reason that can be traced to this global issue; there are, in actuality, many contributing factors. Child marriage, human trafficking, discrimination, poverty, and overall culture are just a few, but majors’ reasons.
However, some people believe religion plays a large role in forbidding education. For example, in Nigeria, a Muslim-majority country, has the highest number of children out of school, according to Action Aid: “Of the 57 million youngsters worldwide who are not receiving a formal education, more than 10 million live in Nigeria.”
Another Muslim-majority country, Pakistan, also has a similar crisis: “Nearly 22.5 million children are out of school. Girls are particularly affected. Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared to 21 percent of boys” Therefore, it is perceived that Islam prohibits women from being educated. This, of course, is entirely false.
It saddens me to think that there are people that continue to believe Islam oppresses women and prohibits them from educating themselves.
Islam gave women basic rights 1400 years ago, including the right to an education. This is way before the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States, which came about in the late 1800s, and only gave women the right to vote. It saddens me to think that there are people that continue to believe Islam oppresses women and prohibits them from educating themselves.
In reality, there are many Muslim women who have excelled in a wide range of academics, and Islam was their backbone of success. An example of such a woman is Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for promoting democracy and human rights for women and children. However, arguably the world’s most well-known activist for education rights for girls is Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pakistani woman attending the University of Oxford, and has gone through many hardships in pursuit of this cause. Targeted by the Taliban because of her relentless fight for girls’ education rights, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her bravery. She is a role model for girls and young women, and has fought tirelessly to ensure that the cultural stigma (parading as religious scripture) behind not educating a girl-child is rubbished.
So now that you know about how prevalent a lack of education is amongst girls, as well as a few exemplary Muslim women that are fighting against it, why should society, as a whole, care about increasing the literacy rates amongst girls?
According to The Borgen Project, a project that addresses poverty and hunger, “Of the 163 million illiterate youth across the globe, nearly 63 percent are female. Offering all children education will increase literacy rates, which will push forward development in struggling regions.”
In addition to that, education also empowers a woman’s wallet through boosting her earning capabilities: “A single year of primary education has shown to increase a girl’s wages later in life by 20 percent.” Can you imagine that educating women can help boost a country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product)? When both girls and boys are offered educational opportunities, and when 10 percent more women attend school, a nation’s GDP increases by three percent on average. That is a MASSIVE boost to any economy.
So, as we leave Women’s History Month behind, how can we act to ensure that the education of the girl-child isn’t overlooked? According to U.N. Women’s website, one of the greatest ways to advocate for a female’s right to an education is by “supporting women and those that empower women.” This small act, as well as “sharing [their] stories and amplifying the voices of others, empowering young advocates, and educating them about women’s rights” is considered “essential to achieving gender equality.” So, let us all come together to raise our voices for the millions of women and children who will otherwise go on to live a life without an education. We should heed what Malala said:
“When the whole world becomes silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”