It is an established fact that women are the torchbearers of economic sustainability. Termed as the third billion and comprising half of the world population, growth is impossible without them. But that said, women also form one of the most vulnerable, often marginalized and under utilized groups globally.
Women’s educational accomplishments have not only increased globally, but in countries like Spain, Brazil, France and also many developing ones, their enrollment in educational institutions have even surpassed that of men. It is an incredibly positive sign fueling women’s economic empowerment on many levels.
Education is a critical tool for alleviating the plight of women; working to relieve the female gender from a number of issues afflicting her. It really is a no-brainer to realize how education improves women’s reproductive health. According to UNESCO, an educated mother will not only make informed decisions about the health and well being of her children, by extension her family and community, being literate will give her leverage and control over how many children she has. Additionally, equipping women with education also empowers her to be aware of her reproductive rights. As a consequence, it decreases fertility rates over time, also giving them time and space in terms of child bearing.
A Population Reference Bureau fact sheet states: “A 35-year study in Guatemala found a link between the years girls spent in school and the timing of childbearing. For each additional year a young woman spent in school, the age at which she had her first child was delayed approximately six to 10 months.”
While increasing female literacy rates are pivotal for economic sustainability of nations, scarcity triggered either by natural or man-made disasters hinder women’s emancipation. Coupled with patriarchal mindset in under-developed and even developing countries, the ramifications are devastating for women. The highest rates of human rights violations of women are in countries where women are marginalized, exacerbated by rigid cultural norms, illiteracy, scarcity and abject poverty. Here women and girls are merely seen both as additional mouths to be fed as well as a product for economic exchange.
Through primary, secondary and tertiary education, women can break gender norms. Education enlightens women about their socio-economic and political rights, in addition to enabling them to participate in modern labor markets, access resources and opportunities; ultimately powering economic mechanisms.
Education is a development imperative and more importantly a social right, benefitting women, families and societies at large. It is linked to fertility, a woman’s mobility and her employment – in short it is her gateway to freedom. It is time to decimate political and social factors that reinforce gender gap, be it literacy, health, economics or society, impeding women’s progress. Until all stakeholders – the family, communities, State and the woman herself – realize that, sustainable, equitable future will remain but a mirage!
BIO: Sabin Muzaffar is a staunch human rights advocate with two decades of experience in print & new media, striving to break digital barriers to empower women and girls. She is currently heading an interactive, online platform Anankemag.com celebrating gender and diversity.