On March 8, 2017 women from across the world marched for women’s rights for International Women’s Day. With the allegations of Harvey Weinstein and others facing repercussions for sexual harassment and abuse, there have been improvements in gender inequalities, but we still have a long way to go.
Another goal of the U.N. is to eliminate gender inequality in the world. Although in some countries women are attending college more than men and are prevalent in the workplace, in other countries they are denied access to schooling. Gender equality is a big step in solving the world’s problems, and when women are educated, they are less likely to live in poverty.
According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 31 million girls of primary school age do not attend school. Of these women, 17 million will probably never attend school in their lifetimes. Education is the gateway to a stronger economy for countries because it develops the workplace. Without gender representation in all schools, there will continue to be gender equality issues across the board.
Amarta Sen, also known as the father of human development, once warned that “if we continue to leave vast sections of the people of the world outside the orbit of education, we make the world not only less just, but also less secure.”
For him and others lack of access to education is a human rights issue. If women can’t read or write they are limited in being able to obtain other rights like the right to a trial or the right to own property. Currently almost two-thirds of the world’s 775 million illiterate adults are women.
Miranda Moses is studying women’s studies at Colorado State University in the United States and works at the women and gender advocacy center on campus. She sees how gender effects countries like the United States.
“Gender inequality affects education and vice versa,” Moses said. “School is a place where we oftentimes see girls socialized to be very specific things when they grow up. They aren’t encouraged to do things like robotics are anything with computers or technology. They encouraged to take positions of caregiver roles; this is one of the reasons we see women in positions like teachers or nurses, which happen to be lower paying jobs.”
Educating women also leads to improved conditions for children. Improvements in women’s education explained half of the reduction in child deaths between 1990 and 2009. With education, women are more empowered to use resources for their children. In Indonesia, 68 percent of children with mothers who have attended secondary school are immunized, compared with 19 percent of children whose mothers have no primary schooling. Schools can also offer sexual health education that is imperative in the health of women. In some schools, they can learn about sexually transmitted infections and how to prevent them.
If we continue to leave vast sections of the people of the world outside the orbit of education, we make the world not only less just, but also less secure.Amarta Sen
For us it can seem overwhelming to attempt to solve the big problems of the world. But there are many small ways to make a difference. Organized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, the #UpForSchool petition sought to improve education worldwide. It was the biggest petition for education in history and spread the message that every child deserves a quality education. As more people sign the petition, more action is taken.
With more campaigns such as these, the message of education as grounds for a more equal and just society will prevail. After all, the children will be the next generation and their education must reflect a progressing society.