In 1995, 189 UN Member States adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. They set the education and training of women one of 12 critical areas of concern. They committed to provide women with equal access and financial resources to education and training in a non-discriminatory way.
Recent global progress towards universal primary education has been achieved, but not enough for women and girls. Women are still disproportionately out of school, and also impoverished, unemployed and have the worst jobs. Education is their right and their lifeline to a better future.
Twenty years later, here are some figures….
The adult literacy rate, for the population 15 years and older increased from 76% in 1990 to 84% in 2012.
The world average of the adult literacy rate is 89% for men as opposed to 80% for women. In developed countries, the adult literacy rate is 99% for both male and female. In developing countries, it is 86% for male and 75% for female. In the least developed countries, it is 67% for male and 51% for female.
The good news about primary education is that 90% of children in developing countries now enjoy primary education compared to 80% in 1990. Besides, all developing regions have achieved or nearly achieving gender parity in primary education, whereby there are an equal number of girls and boys enrolled.
However, many challenges still exist. More than 25% of children in developing regions are likely to drop out of primary school. In addition, more than half the world’s 58 million out-of-school children are girls. A large number of them lives in the sub-Saharan Africa, followed by South Asia. Also, only 23% of poor, rural girls complete their primary education in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Secondary and Tertiary Education
Latin America and the Caribbean take the lead on the number of girls enrolled in the secondary and tertiary school levels. At the tertiary level, 128 women are enrolled for every 100 men. In the secondary level, 107 girls are enrolled for every 100 boys.
On the other hand, 44% of countries will not achieve gender parity in lower education by 2015. In addition, gender disparities, remain in the world, including in Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and south and west Asia. For instance, only 64 women are enrolled for every 100 men at the tertiary school level in sub-Saharan Africa.
Barriers to completing school
Poverty, customs that favor the education of boys over girls and the distance to travel to school are just some of the underlying factors that exacerbate gender gaps in education. Child marriage (700 million women alive today were married before 18, more than one third of them before age 15) and sanitation (some 2.5 billion people still use unimproved sanitation facilities) are other factors that are also gaps to completing school
Women in Science
Gender gaps continue to persist in specific fields of education, especially in the field of science.
In numbers, just 1/5 countries have achieved gender parity, meaning 45% to 55% of researchers are women.
The percentage of women researchers in natural sciences, engineering and technology, medical and health sciences, agricultural sciences, social sciences and humanities is the following:
- World Average: 30%
- Latin America and the Caribbean: 44%
- North America and Western Europe: 32%
- Arab States: 38%
- Sub-Saharan Africa: 29%
- Central and Eastern Europe: 40%
- South and West Asia: 20%
- Central Asia: 46%
- East Asia and the Pacific
Why Education Matters?
Here is the equation:
Education Women and Girls è Empowered Societies
Educating women and girls is a driving force against poverty worldwide and is the key to empowered societies and strong economies. When women and girls have equal access to education, they can make more informed decisions within their home and their communities, make healthier choices for themselves and their family, and have increased opportunities towards stable and gainful employment.
Moreover, below is a brief glimpse on why education matters:
- Children’s health: If all women completed primary education in low and lower-middle income countries, the under-5 mortality rate would fall by 15%. If all women completed secondary education, it would fall by 49%, equal to around 2.8 million lives saved a year.
- Women’s health: If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths, saving 189000 lives a year.
- Violence against women: If all women completed primary education in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, the number of girls getting married by age 15 would fall by 14%; with secondary education, 64% fewer girls would get married.
- Education: For each additional year of mother’s education, a child spends an extra 0.32 years in school. For girls, the benefit is slightly larger.