This fall, ARDF is focusing strategically on projects that provide access to education, especially for women and girls. Watch a video about the impact of one of our projects in Tanzania.
Back to School?
As kids in North America head back to school this Fall, it is worth reflecting upon the state of education around the globe. Although an increasing majority of children in the world do attend at least some school, a large number–so large, in fact, that it is difficult for us to comprehend–still lack access to even basic education.
Here are the numbers: 57 million children of primary school age–the majority of whom are girls–will not enroll in primary school this year. And that’s only a fraction of the 123 million youth who cannot read or write–61% of whom are female.
Education and Development: Why we must care
Access to education is essential for poverty reduction and development. According to the UN, “education imparts skills and competencies that are central to human development and enhanced quality of life, bringing wide-ranging benefits to both individuals and societies.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Anglican church leaders around the globe. Archbishop Henri Isengoma of the Anglican Church of the Congo unhesitatingly told us that “education is our greatest need” when we asked about his troubled country earlier in 2013.
Eduction is vital to a functioning society and is one of the most straightforward ways to improve living conditions and transform lives.
Gender, Education and Development: Why women are so important
Zooming in closer, we see that the education of women and girls is a particularly effective means of social change. Strikingly, Khalid Malik, lead author of the UN’s Human Development Report said that,
women’s education is the closest you can get to a silver bullet. Educating girls through adulthood is perhaps the single most effective route to positive social change…not just for the current generation but also for the future.”
Why is gender so important when it comes to education? For two reasons: First, there is a significant disparity between school enrollment and performance between girls and boys in the developing world. Second, educating girls actually has a greater positive impact than educating boys.
Let’s break these down.
- 61% of the 123 million illiterate youth in the world are girls.
- Two thirds of illiterate adults in the world are female according to UNESCO research.
- 35 million girls of primary school age are not enrolled; 37 million of secondary school age are out of the classroom; and the number of un-enrolled only increases with every grade level.
- In sub-Saharan Africa the situation is substantially worse: only six girls are enrolled in secondary school for every ten boys.
- Childbirth is the leading cause of death for women age 15 to 19 in the developing world, and lack of education greatly increases the likelihood of early pregnancy.
Impact of Education: On the other hand, data shows that educating women can have an incredibly positive impact:
- Completing primary education increases girls’ earnings by 5 to 15 percent over their lifetimes, while boys experience a rate of return between 4 and 8 percent.
- The likelihood of infant mortality decreases by 5 to 10 percent for every extra year of a mother’s schooling.
- In fact, the children of mothers with a secondary education are twice as likely to live past age 5 compared to the children of mothers without any education.
- According to UNESCO, “wages, agricultural income and productivity–all critical for reducing poverty–are higher where women involved in agriculture receive a better education.”
Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General went so far as to say that “Study after study has taught us that there is no tool more effective for development than the empowerment of women.”
Moreover, when the local church is involved in providing education, christians gain credibility and find opportunities to illustrate as well as proclaim the gospel.
Fall Focus: Education for All
ARDF has been supporting projects in the education sector for years, but we are focusing particular attention on this type of work during the back to school season in order to raise awareness of the importance and efficacy of promoting eduction for women as well as men.
“Education is an incredible investment,” said Nancy Norton, ARDF’s Executive Director. “The cost is relatively low, while the potential for improving lives is high. That’s why we want to place greater emphasis on our education related projects this season.”
ARDF is currently funding the construction of a hostel that will provide safe housing for female students in Tanzania, allowing them to finish college far from their rural villages. This is a big deal in a country where less than 60% of girls complete even primary school, and one third of all women–that’s over 4 million–are illiterate (Watch a video about this project).
ARDF is also providing vocational training for poor and unemployed people in Brazil, and we are researching several other exciting education related projects including a second girls’ hostel in Uganda and a girls’ school in South Sudan.
- Economic Management Network Gender Unit. August 2011. Accessed August 2013: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2011/08/08/000158349_20110808092702/Rendered/PDF/WPS5753.pdf
- UNESCO. “Key Messages and Data on Girl’s and Women’s Education and Literacy.” April 2012. Accessed August, 2013: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/pdf/globalpartners-key-messages.pdf
- United Nations Statistics Division. “The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics.” Accessed August, 2013: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/Worldswomen/WW2010%20Report_by%20chapter(pdf)/Education.pdf
- United Nations Millennium Development Goals. “Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education.” Accessed August, 2013: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/education.shtml