What a difference an education can make

By Miranda Mowrey, Columnist

Right now, you are probably reading this column as you wait for your next class. You’re probably dreading class, right? You’re probably wishing that you could be lounging on your bed with a bag of chips and reruns of “Jersey Shore” killing your brain cells one “Cabs are here!” at a time.

Access to education has become such a norm to us that it is hard to believe that across the globe, 130 million girls aged 6 to 17 have no access to education at all. To put it into perspective, more girls are being denied their right to learn than the number of Instagram followers Kendall Jenner has. Half of these girls live in Sub-Saharan Africa and will never see a classroom in their entire life.

Women’s rights issues such as maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, honor killings, economic inequality, gender-based violence, child-marriage, sex trafficking, are human rights issues at their core. It is nearly impossible to tackle these Goliaths all at once – but the education of women has proven to mitigate the effects of these injustices.

Reducing the Spread of HIV/AIDS

As the rate of HIV/AIDS among women is rapidly increasing, it is chilling to observe that African countries with the highest prevalence of HIV are showing a decrease in their children’s participation in formal schooling. According to UNICEF, HIV positive women are less likely than HIV positive males to receive family support and resources and are more likely to be withdrawn from school than their male classmates. 

When a woman is educated, she is more likely to use condoms and less likely to engage in casual sex, leading to a drop in the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. And most importantly, a woman free from the bounds of a life-threatening disease will be able to continue her education. 

Diminishing Maternal Mortality Rates

Author of the award-winning book “Half the Sky,” Nicholas Kristof, writes, “The equivalent of five jumbo jets worth of women die in labor each day…That should be an international scandal.” 99% of maternal deaths occur in low-income countries and almost 75% are avoidable with proper medical treatment. 

Women with no education have 2.7 times the risk of dying during childbirth compared to women with more than 12 years of education. These numbing statistics emphasize that fighting for women’s access to education is essentially fighting for a woman’s life.

Ending Sex Trafficking and Child Marriage

When a woman is educated, she is less likely to marry at an early age and more likely to take part in healthy relationships. They tend to have fewer, healthier children and have the ability to earn up to 20% more with each additional year of schooling. Women in desperate economic situations are more likely to become victims of sex trafficking because sex traffickers find it easiest to manipulate vulnerable individuals. Thus, the ability to make a decent living is essential in reducing the risk of being trafficked. 

Caroline Floyd is the program director for Circle of Sisterhood at TU, an organization that works to build schools for women in underserved areas. Floyd explains the importance of this movement: 

“My education has given me confidence, friendships…it’s allowed me to discover new passions,” she said. “It’s enabled me to make smart choices. Women around the world deserve these experiences too.”

Education is the catalyst for solving the injustices happening globally and creating environments of equality that women can blossom from.

“Most of the world’s illiterate adults are women,” Floyd said. “If they have access to an education, how many doors will open up for them?”

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