Taking the Opportunity in Educating Girls

Abstract
This article describes that around the world, girls face barriers to education that boys do not; however, when we take the opportunity in educating girls we can reduce poverty and promote family well-being. In most countries, barriers of all types still stand between girls and the opportunity to receive an education. When we take the opportunity in educating girls we can reduce poverty. Educating girls may be the single highest return investment available in the developing world. When we take the opportunity in educating girls we can promote the well-being of families. Having smaller, healthier and well educated families, assists in raising the economic productivity, equips them to obtain a variety of jobs within the community, eases the environmental burdens and slows population growth. Religious views, culture, ignorance, fear and the lack of resources summarizes the opposition towards educating the girls around the world. Imagine the possibilities of the millions of girls that can be changed when we take the opportunity to educate them.

Keywords: culture, girl’s education, opportunity, poverty, religion, well-being families

October 9, 2012 was a Tuesday that began similar to any other for fifteen year old Malala Yousafzai, though a little later than usual. It was exam time, so school started at nine instead of eight, which was good, as she is not a morning person. Malala slept in the long room at the front of her house which held only two pieces of furniture, a bed and a cabinet. The cabinet she purchased with some of the money she had been awarded for campaigning for peace in her Pakistan valley and the right for girls to attend school. On the shelves, she placed the gold colored plastic cups and trophies she had won for placing first in her class. Malala was in her ninth year at Khushal School, founded by her father before she was born. The school was not far from her home and was in walking distance; however, Malala took a bus as her mother was fearful as their family had been getting threats all year in the newspaper, in notes, and in messages passed on by people. There was no sign on the outside of the school, just a white wall across the woodcutter’s yard down a narrow mud lane giving no hint of what was inside. Malala found it difficult to imagine that attending school would be such a threat, however the Taliban believed that school was not a place for girls.

When the school day was over, the girls all covered their heads before emerging outside and climbing into the back of the bus. The bus, which they call a Dyna, is a Toyota Town Ace truck with three parallel benches, one along either side and one in the middle. It was cramped with twenty girls and three teachers, Malala sat on the left between her best friend Moniba and another classmate. It was hot and sticky in the back as there were no windows, just a plastic sheeting on the sides which flapped open occasionally and was too yellowed and dusty to be able to see through them. Approximately a mile outside the city of Mingora, after the bus turned off the main road at the army checkpoint it came to a complete stop. A young man in light colored clothes had stepped into the middle of the road waving the bus down. The man asked if this was the Khushal School bus and the driver stated that it was. The man continued on in questioning the driver about the children, the driver insisted that he obtain the information from the school office, as he did not have the answers. While the man was speaking with the driver, another young man wearing white approached the back of the bus where the girls were and demanded to know which one was Malala. No one spoke, some out of loyalty, but others out of fear; however, unconsciously a few of the girl’s eyes turned towards Malala. The man, looking the fifteen year old girl in the face, pulled the trigger of his forty-five caliber twice, shooting Malala in the head and through her neck. He fired once more and then both men fled the scene. The first shot went through Malala’s left eye socket and out under her left shoulder, which caused her to slump forward onto Moniba, therefore the other two bullets hit the girls sitting beside her.


Over the screams and tears of the girls, one of the teacher’s instructed the bus driver to drive to a local hospital which was a few miles away. By the time they arrived to the hospital Malala’s long hair and Moniba’s lap was full of blood (Yousafzai, pp.2-5). This was Malala’s story, one of the millions of girls that secretly attend school or are unable to receive an education. The 2013 Education for All Global Monitoring reports an estimated 110 million children, sixty percent of them girls, between the ages of six and eleven, will not see the inside of a classroom each year. Another 150 million are expected to drop out before completing primary school (UNESCO). Around the world, girls face barriers to education that boys do not; however, when we take the opportunity in educating girls we can reduce poverty and promote family well-being.

Girls Barriers to Education
     Even though there is an intensive international movement to push the cause forward, barriers of all types still stand between girls and the opportunity to receive an education in most countries. Violence, conflict, war, human trafficking, lack of financial resources, lack of water, lack of food, lack of medical care, gender discrimination, bonded labor, disease, displacement, and numerous others are obstacles girls face in becoming educated. The greatest of these is the lack of resources within the home, the country’s government and from around the world. Donor’s funds are not nearly enough to supply what the government’s policies and budgets are inadequate to fulfill, as a result the families are left with the increasing financial burden for educating their children. In several rural areas, the little money families are able to scrounge to send their children to school is often too much of an investment to risk on their daughters, as traditional cultural attitudes are still extremely strong against girls’ education.

Even in countries where the greater of the cost of primary and secondary education is endured by the government, some costs still fall on the families, and those costs can be considerable, particularly for those in poverty. Barbara Herz and Gene Sperling wrote in their book entitled, What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence and Policies from the Developing World, the cost factor of time is also a valuable resource that is lacking midst the families in developing countries. Without the supportive technologies and convenient household tools we have become accustom to, numerous cultures expect the girls to perform the household and farm chores, which can create the immediate, short-term cost of educating girls seems greater in most families (2004).

Without an education, these girls face early marriage, or are sent off to larger cities to work as child laborers, where they are all too often misused.

Reduce Poverty
    When we take the opportunity in educating girls we can reduce poverty. Although U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton shared these words at the plenary session of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 the following are still evident today,

What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well (cited in Minerva, 2012).

One of the keys to unlocking access to economic growth within a community is providing girls with an education. Girls who are educated become women who are empowered to care for themselves, their families, and their communities. When we invest in girl’s education, the return is inestimable. Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard University president and former director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, have stated that educating girls may be the single highest return investment available in the developing world (1994).

Promote Family Well-Being
     When we take the opportunity in educating girls we can promote the well-being of families. Smaller, healthier and well-educated families are the result of educating girls. These girls become women who will spend more time than men in caring for their children. It is believed that the resources a woman is in control of will directly benefit the family more than the resources that a man is in control of. When girls are educated, they tend to want smaller families so they are able to devote more in the health and education of each one of their children. In countries where three-fourths of women have a secondary education, women typically have two or three children, the children are more probable to attend school and child mortality drops as the family income rises (Herz, 2004). T. Paul Schultz writes in his research entitled, Returns to Women’s Schooling, a year of schooling for the mother beyond the average in her country cuts infant mortality by five percent to ten percent (1993). Damien, De Walque, writes in his article entitled How Does Educational Attainment Affect the Risk of Being Infected by HIV/AIDS, girls who are literate, and particularly girls who reach secondary school, are more likely to avoid HIV/AIDS since they can better obtain information, stand up for themselves and take more control of their lives (2004).

Opposition in Educating Girls
     Religious views, culture, ignorance, and fear summarizes the opposition towards educating the girls around the world. There is very little peer reviewed research available, recognizing an opposition of girls in education, as one would say that there is little opposition outside of the known barriers.

In the article entitled, The Girl Who Changed Pakistan, Shehrbano Taseer speaks of one opposition. A suppressive belief that has been made permissible to flourish in Pakistan as of the madrassa system that has been set up by power hungry clerics. It is a deeply rooted indoctrination, undermining the ancient religious traditions of a harsher form of religion that is barely a generation old. These madrassa, religious schools headed by clerics, are the breeding ground of some of the Islamic radicalism. These clerics do not teach critical thinking; however, they spread hate. These clerics are raising students of hatred who believe in a right wing and radical Islam, to hail people such as the late Osama bin Laden and elite force guard Mumtaz Qadri as heroes. They train children how to shoot guns, to set off bombs, and how not to live however to die. The Taliban bans the education of girl’s and completes attacks on schools as they fear education, it teaches critical thinking which has the power to resolve terrorism (2012).

 Conclusion
     It has only been three years since Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’s life had been changed forever. After her condition stabilized, she was sent to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, England for intensive rehabilitation and was later discharged in January of 2013. Malala and her family now reside in the United Kingdom living a life incredibly different to anything they may have imagined. In her personal memoir, she describes life in England to her friend from back home, she says there are streets with rows of identical houses, solid houses which could withstand floods and earthquakes. The people follow rules, they respect policeman and everything happens on time. The government is in charge and no one needs to know the name of the Army chief. She sees women having jobs she could not have imagined before, they are police and security guards; they run big companies and dress as they like (Yousafzai, 2013). Malala and her family are subjected to live away from their old familiarities in Mingora, so that they are able to stay safe and protected from further attacks from the Taliban. In April of 2013, Malala returned to school in Birmingham, she shares of how wonderful it is to attend school without feeling scared, for it is a place where no one dreams of being attacked for just going to class (Yousafzai, 2013)

Though her world has changed, she has not, she continues to speak out for girl’s education, co-founder of the non-profit organization Malala Fund, co- author of a personal memoir and at the age of seventeen she is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Megan Gibson reports in Time magazine, Malala Yousafzai told the BBC that she still hopes to achieve much more and she desires to become Prime Minister of Pakistan one day (2014). Malala Yousafzai writes in the Times article entitled, All Girls Deserve Education Beyond Primary,

We know that investments in education pay off. Who knows how much brilliance in the world was deprived of by millions of girls missing out on secondary education. Perhaps there was a transformative leader in that generation, an inspiring writer, a scientist who might solve the world’s most pressing problems. When I think of the unrealized potential, my sorrow knows no bounds (2015).

This is the life of one girl, imagine the possibilities of the millions of other girls that can be changed when we take the opportunity to educate them.













De Walque, Damien. (2004). How Does Educational Attainment Affect the Risk of Being Infected by HIV/AIDS? Evidence from a General Population Cohort in Rural Uganda.World Bank Development Research Group Working Paper. Washington, D.C.: World Bank. March.

Gibson, M. (2014). Malala Says She Hopes to Become Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Time.Com N.PAG.

Herz, Barbara, Sperling, Gene. (2004). What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence and Policies from the Developing World. Washington, D.C.: Council on Foreign Relations.

Minerva, L. (2012, October 8). Educate a girl, change the world | World Vision Blog. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from http://blog.worldvision.org/causes/educate-a-girl-change-the-world

Schultz, Paul. (1993). Returns to Women’s Schooling. In Elizabeth King and M. Anne Hill, eds., Women’s Education in Developing Countries: Barriers, Benefits, and Policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Summers, Lawrence. (1994). Investing in All the People: Educating Women in Developing Countries.  EDI Seminar Paper No. 45. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

Taseer, S. (2012). The Girl Who Changed Pakistan. (Cover story). Newsweek, 160(18), 38-43.

UNESCO. (2013). Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013: Education for All: The Leap to Equality .Paris.

Yousafzai, M. (2015). All Girls Deserve Education Beyond Early Childhood. Time.com N.PAG.


Yousafzai, M., & Lamb, C. (2013). The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban (pp. 2-5, 256-264). Croydon, Cro: CPI Group.

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