Denying Girls an Education – guaranteeing a cycle of poverty for future generations

© Oxfam East Africa Creative Commons Flickr

Everybody has the right to education, recognised since 1948 by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The right to free and compulsory primary education, without discrimination and of good quality, has been reaffirmed in all major subsequent international human rights conventions. Yet in some parts of the world, girls are systematically denied access to education, which has significant and far reaching consequences.

Too often marriage is seen as a higher priority than education, and girls who are forced into marriage or are pregnant are taken out of school. Over 51 million girls under the age of 18 in countries in the Global South are forced to marry and in some places marriage of girls as young as seven to men ten times their age is commonplace.8  In 2005, the UNFPA predicted that over 100 million girls would become child brides by 2015 based on existing practices.9

There is often a powerful economic and social rationale for investing in the education of sons over daughters, as educated daughters are perceived to be less suitable for marriage, and less likely to abide by the will of the father, brother or husband. The perceived opportunity costs linked to sending girls to school are significant in poor households. Girls are frequently used to substitute for their mother, often expected to care for siblings. The loss of girls’ labour during school hours thus has a detrimental impact on such families' ability to raise their household income, either through food production or wage labour.

© WN/ Rubielyn Bunag

A pervasive vicious cycle is in full swing. The limited number of female teachers in both primary and secondary schools is also a major constraint on girls' education since their presence helps to make schools more girl-friendly, and provides them important role models. Some leaders struggle to recruit female teachers: often failing to ensure equal rights of women in teaching, failing to remove cultural prejudice against female teachers and failing to provide effective incentives to encourage female teachers to work.

Schools themselves can often fail to protect the basic rights and dignity of girls. Violence includes rape, sexual harassment, physical and psychological intimidation, teasing and threats. It may happen on the way to school or within the school itself, and can be perpetuated by teachers, parents, persons of perceived authority and fellow students. These conditions can encourage absenteeism and perpetuate cycles of discrimination and low self-esteem which education is supposed to break.

It is widely known that education helps men and women claim their rights and realise their potential in the economic, political and social arenas. It is also the single most powerful way to lift people out of poverty.10  Education plays a particularly important role as a foundation for girls’ development towards adult life. Women's education leads directly to better reproductive health, improved family health, economic success, for the family and for society, as well as lower rates of child mortality and malnutrition.11   Improving educational opportunities for girls and women helps them to develop skills that allow them to make decisions and influence community change in key areas.

 “An educated girl is less vulnerable to violence, less likely to marry and have children when still a child herself, and more likely to be literate and healthy into adulthood – as are her own children. Her earning power is increased and she is more likely to invest her income for the benefit of her family, community and country. It is not an exaggeration to say educating girls can save lives and transform futures.” Nigel Chapman, CEO, Plan International.

In our view, when individuals act despite knowing the threat from their acts to the survival and well-being of future generations and ecosystems - this should constitute a crime against future generations.

Read other examples of crimes against future generations: Arctic Drilling, Bottom Trawling, Cultural Heritage DestructionNuclear Weapons, Casino Finance, Razing the Rainforest

News Update,
Jul 23 2014:

Three key steps to making schools safe in Nigeria
by Hafsat Abiola-Costello and Bjarte Reve

"Yes moko, just like the sea which has to move its tides
so we can collect Kaimoana at certain times.
Rules give harmony to our lives
so we live with
minimum conflicts.
Working in harmony with others, ae moko, it’s nature’s
act of saying,
Let us make music all together
if not in reality — then make it your dream."

WFC Councillor Pauline Tangiora

Future Justice… about thinking and acting differently, based on respect, dignity and mutual trust

…considers not just what is happening now, but the effects of our actions in the years, decades and centuries to come

… is a means of creating new rules for how we live and work, pass laws and run countries

…is the giving of rights to the poorest, the weakest, the ignored, to the planet and to the other living creatures we share it with

…is a protection for all the people yet to be born,  whose lives we are blighting before they have even started

…is about what we do now.  Our actions today will determine the conditions of life for centuries to come