NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Women Face Barriers to Education

September 12, 2003

Girls in many developing countries face extraordinary obstacles to their education, says journalist Linda Campbell. For instance, in Afghanistan, girls were only allowed back into schools last year after being banished when the Taliban took control of the country in 1996. But 18 schools have since been attacked by arsonists opposed to educating females.

Furthermore, in many countries parents must pay for their children's education, and if poor parents can afford only enough money for one child, they'll choose a boy over a girl. Instead of getting an education that will enable her to lift her family from poverty and despair, the girl will have to work and marry young.

Thus illiteracy rates are higher for women than men in developing countries:

  • According to the United Nations, 72 percent of Senegal's women are illiterate, unable to read or write, compared to 53 percent of the men.
  • In Afghanistan, an estimated 79 percent of the women are illiterate; in Iraq, it's almost 77 percent.
  • By comparison, the illiteracy rate for women in Mexico is almost 11 percent.
  • Educated women are more likely to marry older instead of having children while they're still children themselves.
  • They are more likely to get medical attention for themselves and their children and make sure they have healthy diets.
  • Educated women are more likely to secure decent-paying jobs, to value education for their children, and to have the time, energy and skills to help build their communities.

Finally, educated women are more likely to become political leaders who can influence government policies and practices.

Source: Linda Campbell,"Beyond questions of equality," Star-Telegram, September 11, 2003.


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