The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
Educating girls and young women is not only one of the biggest moral challenges of our generation, it is also a necessary investment for a peaceful and poverty-free world. Until we give girls equal access to a good quality education, the world will continue to suffer from child and maternal mortality, disease and other byproducts of poverty.
This week, when world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly debate why many of the Millennium Development Goals remain out of reach, they should look no further than education disparities across the developing world. UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report team has released new evidence that shows how education gives girls and young women the freedom to make decisions to improve their lives.
Education is linked to the age at which women marry and have children. In sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia, child marriage affects one in eight girls; one in seven gives birth by the age of 17. Education can empower these girls to have a say over their life choices -- by giving them the confidence to speak up for their rights, and to demand the opportunity to continue their studies. Our analysis shows that if all girls in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia had primary education, there would be 14 percent fewer child marriages. If all girls received a secondary education, 64 percent fewer girls would be locked into marriage at an age when they should still be in school.
Education also helps girls and young women defy social limits on what they can or cannot do. It empowers them to decide how many children they will have, and how frequently they will get pregnant. By learning about the health risks associated with years of consecutive childbirth, women can choose to delay getting pregnant. In Pakistan, for example, only 30 percent of women who have no education believe that they have a say over how many children they will have. This proportion rises to 63 percent among women who have secondary education. Giving uneducated girls a secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa would reduce the number of births per mother from almost seven to four. In practical terms, too, improving literacy among girls and young women offers enormous economic benefits. Until there are equal numbers of girls and boys in school, there will still be more illiterate women than men, and many fewer women than men in secure, well-paying jobs. When a young woman is seen as a potential wage-earner for her family, she has a better likelihood of making her own choices and resisting cultural and family pressure to have children.
A new poll shows public opinion in Pakistan has turned sharply against the Taliban and other Islamist militants, even though they still do not trust the United States and President Barack Obama. Reporting on the poll, our Asia specialist in Washington, Paul Eckert, said the WorldPublicOpinion.org poll, conducted in May as Pakistan's army fought the Taliban in the Swat Valley, found that 81 percent saw the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda as a critical threat to the country, a jump from 34 percent in a similar poll in late 2007. Read Eckert's report here. (Photo: Pakistani Taliban in Swat, 2 Nov 2007/Sherin Zada Kanju)
The poll shows a wide divergence between Pakistani public opinion and the views of the Taliban on the implementation of sharia, a religious issue sometimes cited to help explain earlier tolerance of the militants. Some 80 percent of the respondents said sharia permits education for girls, one of the first services the Taliban close down when they gain control of an area. And 75 percent said sharia allows women to work, which the Taliban do not.