I've always known that there were inherent gender inequality problems with education systems worldwide, but I didn’t realize how intense the issue was until I finished I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai a couple months ago. In the documentation, she details the problem with the attitudes and policies that often keep girls in developing countries from completing school, along with the price she paid simply for furthering her education. In 2012, she was shot by the Taliban simply for being a girl “daring” to make a trip to school.
Photo: Lacie Slezak on Unsplash
In developing countries around the world, such as Malala’s Pakistan, parts of India, and Somalia just to name a few, the lack of education for women is startling. In certain countries, less than 10% of the female population completes high school, compared to the USA’s 85%. For the 75% of girls who start primary school in certain parts of Africa, only 8% finish secondary school. More than 62 million girls around the world are being kept from schooling right at this very moment.
At this point, you may be asking why.
There are a multitude of reasons. To start off, women and girls make up 70% of the world’s poverty population. Girls can be barred from educational opportunities due to inability to pay for necessities, such as uniforms, supplies, or even sanitary pads, which can cause girls to miss school to the point of eventually dropping out.
However, the problem isn’t entirely economic. The root of this problem, and gender equality issues as a whole, have to be traced back to traditionalistic beliefs and attitudes.
In many cultures, a woman is viewed as inferior. In many cultures, the birth of a girl is looked at as a burden, rather than a celebration. In these same cultures, girls are not allowed to go to school because it is thought to deter them from fulfilling their duties of becoming housewives and homemakers. As previously mentioned statistics show, an alarming rate of girls drop out of school around their teenage years. This has a strong correlation with girls in countries across the world being forced into marriage as child brides. One in 9 girls are married before the age of 15 in developing countries, and ⅓ are married before age 18. These girls have a high chance of living in poverty and contracting STDs such as HIV, because they are marrying an often more experienced sexual partner. The belief that a woman’s place is the kitchen, and the kitchen only is still the norm for too many women across the globe.
Educating our girls is so important. It allows girls to be independent of what they’ve been told their entire lives, it allows them to have thoughts, ideas, and beliefs of their own. Education opens so many doors, and breaks down the barriers of gender stereotypes for a woman’s entire life. It is reported that each extra year of education can earn a woman up to 20% more pay throughout her lifetime. Educating our girls is the first step to achieving gender equality. Seeing girls as equals to their male peers at a young age fosters the idea of equality and inclusivity for the rest of their lives. Failing to see this promotes the toxic notion of inferiority, weakness, and frailness. How far can these women progress if one of the most important doors to their success has been chain locked from the age of 12? How far can these women progress if they’ve been taught their entire lives that their only duty in life is to birth children and take after their households?
Gender equality is still very much a problem. Arguments from individuals who choose not to look at the staggering statistics and examine the radical-seeming mindsets are comparable to bystanders during an incident of bullying. Just keep in mind, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” (Desmond Tutu).
Neha Lund is a rising senior at Manalapan High School who is passionate about politics, feminism, education, and leadership. She plans to double major in Economics and Political Science, with an intent to go to Law School or work for a non-profit. She is very involved in Junior States of America, loves trying new food, and spends her time calling congressional offices to support youth leadership campaigns.
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