Educate Girls to Address Poverty: Improve Health; Nutrition; Sanitation
In Pakistan, where half of the population is less than 18 years of age, some 7 million children are out of primary school, of which close to 60 per cent are girls, according to a UNICEF report about Pakistan.
The report says that more than 50 million Pakistanis over 10-year-of-age are illiterate. While more than two-third of boys can read, less than half of girls are literate. The consequences of this education deficit are enormous, both from a child rights perspective and from a productive labor force point of view.
According to the UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report, gender, wealth and a household’s location strongly influence the likelihood of a child being out of school. In Pakistan, 49 per cent of the poorest children aged 7 to 16 were out of school in 2007, compared with 5 per cent of children from the wealthiest households. Poor girls living in rural areas are sixteen times less likely to be in school than boys from the wealthiest household living in urban areas.
Girls with even a primary level education vastly improve their own lives but also are more likely when they become mothers to bring change to their families, including more surviving, healthy children, better communities and value added to local economies. Providing girls and women with a quality education is a highly effective tool to address poverty and improve health, nutrition and sanitation. If children, especially girls, are to get the education that is their right, it is essential that education be compulsory, free and of good quality.
When children miss out on their right to education, it is not only they who suffer the consequences through loss of opportunities in life, but the entire social, cultural and economic peaceful development of the country loses, too. Applying the equity-based approach to education, where budgets and programs target the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children to ensure they have quality education, Pakistan can greatly accelerate its progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.