1. Girls’ education as a force multiplier
Girls’ education functions as a force multiplier in international
development, yielding economic and social
returns at the individual, family and societal levels.
Educated mothers are less likely to die of complications
related to pregnancy, and their children experience
lower rates of mortality and malnutrition. As
a result of improvements in education for women of
reproductive age, an estimated 2.1 million children’s
lives were saved between 1990 and 2009.
Education is associated with increased contraception
use; less underage premarital sex; lower HIV/AIDS
risks; and reduced child marriage, early births, and
fertility rates. Educating girls also yields intergenerational
benefits because the children of educated
mothers tend to be healthier and better-educated
Educating girls also contributes to economic growth—increasing a girl’s secondary education by one year over the average raises her future income by 10 to 20 percent.
In addition to its health benefits, education can augment
women’s labor force participation and earning
potential. This can lead to reduced poverty, greater
political participation by women, and women’s increased
agency and assertion of their rights at the
household and community levels. Educating girls also
contributes to economic growth—increasing a girl’s
secondary education by one year over the average
raises her future income by 10 to 20 percent.
Girls’ and boys’ right to education is widely accepted
in international human rights law, and thus
has been enshrined in numerous conventions—including
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights. The Convention on the Elimination of
all Forms of Discrimination Against Women sets forth
a norm for the fair and equal treatment of women.
International humanitarian law protects all children’s
right to education during armed conflict.
The social and economic benefits of education also
illustrate the clear business case for schooling, based
on returns from investments in education. For example,
a recent report showed that for a typical company
in India, an investment of $1 in a child’s education
today will return $53 in value to the employer by the
time the individual enters the workforce.
Countries like Brazil and Ethiopia have shown the dramatic progress that can be achieved through multipronged efforts. Successful strategies have included measures like targeted investments to help small farmers boost crop yields—which can bring a double-barreled gain of increasing farmers’ incomes while increasing food availability for others—to social support programs like school meals, cash transfers and seasonal employment initiatives that ensure even the poorest people can afford food during lean times.