How Education Improves African Women’s Lives (Part 2)

The knowledge required for being informed about birth control methods also comes into play when African women are at particular risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS. One study has revealed that girls who go to school are three times less likely to be infected with the HIV virus. Part of the problem is where young girls were getting their information about AIDS from. They believed that AIDS was a curse to punish the wicked, and also that anyone who looked healthy could not be HIV-positive. Ensuring women attend and stay in school is key to removing such dangerous myths and arming young girls with the understanding that will steer them clear from both early pregnancies and life-threatening sexually transmitted illnesses.

The high infant mortality rate and the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, both of which have a root from young girls not remaining in school, places further pressure on countries that already have strained social safety nets. Hospitals face chronic shortages in staff and resources needed to care for pregnant women and for those stricken with AIDs. As a result, governments spend more on taking care of a population that is unable to contribute rather than work on roads, water, and power systems that are in need of modernization and repair.

In light of these pressing social issues listed above, having more educated girls makes perfect sense. On average, girls who receive more education will spend on average 90% on her family.

African women also need a positive and healthy understanding of what being successful in society really means. In the past, young girls in Africa engaged in sexual relationships with older men for financial gain or finding a good husband that will take care of her and her family. As a result, it was impossible for young girls to believe in the idea that they could be independent enough to take care of themselves, rather than being dependent on men in order to survive. Sometimes this relationship evolves further into getting caught up in the commercial sex industry, tragically coerced by family members in order to pay for the bills and get food. In the end, they become little more than a service, paid by those who can afford it.

Keeping girls in school ensures two things. First, it gives them the education that will serve as tools later in life to not need to choose the path of marriage for financial convenience but instead become more self sufficient by earning a better income. It also gives them a level of confidence and a healthier view of themselves where they are not substandard to men as things but equal to them as persons.

The final point to address is that once the effort is made to keep young girls in the education system in order to improve their lives and the families they care for, little additional effort is required down the road for the following generations. Women who learn the value of education today will teach their children what they know and send their girls to school, and in turn these girls too will continue that practice. The domino effect from this transference of knowledge will wash over all the societies of African nations like a tidal wave, except in this case it will bring constructive positive development instead of the heart-rending news we read about in the newspapers and watch on TV.


Education in sub-Saharan Africa

The prosperity of a country depends in part on the productivity of its citizens. Education plays an important part in ensuring both productivity and prosperity, since the more educated the population, the higher the standard of living through higher earned wages.

What does this say about a region of the world where roughly half the population does not receive any education at all?  Sub-Saharan Africa has only two out of thirty-five countries at gender parity, where boys and girls are in school and receiving an adequate amount of education. As stated in the 2013 World Population Data Sheet released by the Population Reference Bureau, Africa’s population is expected to rise from 1.1 billion to to 2.4 billion by 2050. According to Wendy Baldwin, CEO of the PRB, nearly all of that growth will be from sub-Saharan Africa, noted to be the region’s poorest.

Imagine that. A significant population growth over the next 35 years, yet nearly half that increase in the population will not have the needed education to help raise the standard of living in that area of the world.

There are many factors that prevent girls from receiving the same amount of education as boys. One of which is cultural, where girls are forced into child marriages and the household obligations forced on them due to social classification based on gender, with the governments of sub-Saharan countries unable if not unwilling to do anything about it. Another is the issue of civil infrastructure, where schools are unable to take on the additional influx of female students due to inadequate sewage, water and electrical systems currently in place. There’s also the shortage of insufficient female teachers to promote a gender-sensitive environment to consider as well.

Gender-parity in education is the key to raising the quality of living in this region. Girls who attend school are less likely to contract diseases such as HIV and AIDS and as a result are less of a drain on already strained medical reserves. Instead of being forced into child marriages or exploited through child labour, more girls with access to equal education will enter the workforce and earn a higher wage standard, which in turn translates into increase revenue for the government to pay for existing and expand on future social services. The resulting increased earning power also allow girls to grow up to become empowered women with a greater influence in social, economic and political aspects in their country. They also become better consumers which benefits industries and businesses in that region.

This in turn leads to a more stable geopolitical situation, since citizens tend to protest and riot less when their basic needs are addressed through equal access to education and the opportunities it brings.

The benefits of gender parity does not stop at the current generation either. A domino effect of equal economic opportunity will be produced for future generations as well.

The investment of time, effort, and money to ensure gender parity a wise investment in the economic and social growth and stability in sub-Saharan Africa. What is required is the removal of barriers created from cultural norms and gender prejudices that have existed in these countries for many generations.