Educating women in the third world: what is the socio-economic impact?

Educating women is purported to be one of the most valuable investments a developing country can make. Research has found that nations that educate girls to the same degree as boys benefit from longer life expectancies, lower birth rates and higher economic growth. Evidence also shows that educating girls reduces child malnutrition rates and lowers the risk of HIV infection. So, if educating women is such a good idea, what is holding the third world back?

One of the most obvious reasons is financial constraint. For many families it is still a priority to educate boys; they see the son as the main future breadwinner who will therefore support his parents in their old age. The extra cost of educating females is not seen as necessary because a daughter will eventually be financially supported by her husband. In addition, with unemployment rates so high, wouldn’t educating girls bring more competitors to the employment sectors and only make conditions worse?

Other issues which limit education for women are cultural constraints. The lack of employment opportunities for women in developing countries, often stemming from social and religious traditions, devalues the need for equal education.

This point is highlighted by UNICEF’s (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) Damien Personnaz: “There are a lot of religious leaders who do not think that to send a girl to school is a big priority. This is actually the most difficult barrier to overcome, but we’ve been doing so in working with the communities involved in many countries in South Asia, in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.”

Government oppression is another factor. During the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, almost half of the nations’ schools were destroyed; under the regime, females were completely banned from academic study.

With so many obstacles to overcome, can anything be done to improve the situation?

It could be argued that foreign assistance might help. For an example, in Afghanistan, since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, the UN (United Nations) and other groups have invested in opening education facilities such as the Women’s ICT Centres. The number of girls attending school has increased by over 30% since 2001, and literacy levels have greatly improved.  The ability to read and write has given many more women the chance to vote under the nation’s new political rights.

Educating girls creates educated mothers and has a huge socio-economic impact. Women will pass on knowledge, and a greater financial freedom, to their children. It is a cycle built for prosperity, but can only function if enough employment is available for the newly educated work-force. Women who are educated can not only help build a stronger economy, they are able to better protect themselves from disease, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. For a country to prosper in the modern world, both men and women must break from the tradition which states ‘girls belong at home’.


11 responses to “Educating women in the third world: what is the socio-economic impact?”

  1. Samman Avatar

    Another great subject open for debate by the Publication Integrity and Ethics. Well done.

  2. Wong Avatar

    Excellent statement by the Publication Integrity and Ethics “Educating girls creates educated mothers and has a huge socio-economic impact. Women will pass on knowledge, and a greater financial freedom, to their children. It is a cycle built for prosperity, but can only function if enough employment is available for the newly educated work-force.”

  3. Waseem Jerjes Avatar
    Waseem Jerjes

    Unfortunately there seems to be a major problem in the Middle East where the culture considers women to be a “lower class” than men. The implications of this backward thinking has lead many countries to be underdeveloped in many disciplines. However this has been changing on a slow rate.

    1. Hopper Avatar

      Although I agree that the Middle East represents one of the good examples of poor treatment of women in the third world, but please remember that we have the same problems here in the developed world but obviously they have been masked by other problems…for example, the traveler’s community in Europe and the small religious groups and cults in the US…and many others. The problem is global.

  4. Hopper Avatar

    Even though the world has progressed a great deal in the last 50 years, the treatment and education of women in the third world really is such a problem. I think we need to put more pressure on our governments to make sure women are given the equal opportunities they deserve.

  5. C Bell Avatar
    C Bell

    What a surprisingly insightful blog! The plight of women in the third world is something we should definitely be thinking about more often. Also, would be interesting to see exactly what UN strategies are specifically regarding education of women across the Middle East.

  6. Cooper Avatar

    We are all someone’s child. Mothers are where most kids get a lot of their basic life skills and it is only fair that they are given the opportunity for an education of their own.

    1. Heather Avatar

      Nicely put.

  7. San. Patel Avatar
    San. Patel

    A noble cause no doubt, but unfortunately the patriarchal systems in places where women’s rights are practically non-existent are not challenged enough. Equality is far away.

  8. John Avatar

    Actually, I’ll think you’ll find that the feminist movement has grown in force in the past decade. I agree with the statement ‘equality is far away’ but would also add ‘but it’s getting closer’

  9. Hopper Avatar

    The rise of feminism in the first world this year has magnified the treatment of women worldwide, and it has come to everyone’s attention that they are severely disadvantaged in second and third world countries.
    Clearly this is bad for the countries concerned, because women make up roughly 50% of the population. That’s a tonne of money the economy is missing out on through lack of education.

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