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Innovation and action in funding girls' education

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This story is originally from Brookings Institute.

By: Xanthe Ackerman

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 themselves.

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.

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