In Kenya, as in most developing countries, the education of girls is undervalued. Even when girls have the opportunity to be educated, they face overwhelming barriers when attempting to complete their studies – many are related to gender inequality.
Some girls will be denied their education and forced into early marriage to prevent them from bringing shame to their family through early, unintended pregnancy. (Child marriage is thought, by some, to be the best way to prevent shame and preserve traditions.) Some girls will be expected to take on household responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for young children, when their parents become sick, while their brothers advance their educations. Meanwhile, others simply lack access to an education due to extreme poverty.
While virtually all Kenyan girls enroll in primary school, approximately 65% will drop out before completing Standard 8, according to the Forum for African Women Educationalists.
If we reverse this trend, we can make a big impact.
The World Food Programme has found that a girl’s income increases by 10 to 20% for each year of primary school she attends. For each year of secondary school, her income climbs another 15 to 25%.
Not only do educated girls earn more, they make healthier life decisions: they delay marriage, have fewer children, receive more frequent health care, and invest in the health, nutrition, and education of their own children.
When you consider that girls and women invest 90% of their wages in their families, while men invest between 30 and 40%, the answer to the question, “Why girls” becomes clear.
In short, educated girls are the ladder that allows whole communities to climb out of poverty.