What Is Girls' Education Without Human Rights?

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Afghan girls at school

© UNHCR / Lana Slezic /GlobalAware

Education, especially girls’ education, is a no-brainer, right? Evidence shows that even a basic, primary education, has a range of positive impacts:

  • Children of educated mothers are twice as likely to go to school as those raised by mothers with no education. They are also 40% less likely to die in childhood.
  • Girls who go to school are more empowered to seek health care; teach their families about human rights, hygiene, HIV prevention and other things they have learned; and protect themselves from violence and sexual exploitation.
  • Educated girls often wait longer to get married or have kids, and when they do have kids, they usually choose to have fewer than women with no education. They are also less likely to acquire HIV than girls with no schooling.
  • Girls who go to school grow up into women who earn a living. Education is a fundamental building block in the fight against poverty.

Education has the potential to transform power dynamics, leveling the playing field between males and females. Educated girls have higher self-esteem and tools to claim their own rights. But to get there, girls must enroll, learn, stay in school, and keep learning.

In 2000, the world agreed to address gender disparities in education by including targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Eleven years later, progress has indeed been made: more girls are enrolling in school.  On the surface, that’s good news for human rights.

Yet, a new report from the RESULTS Educational Fund and the Global Campaign for Education tells us that, by measuring success only by enrollment, and not by human rights outcomes, we are ignoring the real objective of helping girls succeed and continue their learning into secondary or even tertiary school.

Looking at the MDG target of “bodies-in-schools” through a human rights lens, the report highlights many ways we are failing to protect the right to education:

  • Schools are often too far from home for girls to attend, or are made too expensive by hidden costs.
  • Schools are unsafe for girls, with a lack of private latrines, hygiene, and other critical infrastructure putting them at greater risk.
  • Highly-qualified female teachers are often in short supply, yet they can help female students succeed.
  • Education is commonly designed for boys and lacks gender-sensitive curriculum; it also frequently ignores other challenges that keep girls from school, such as child labor, child marriage, and early pregnancy.

Underlying all of these rights violations is one fundamental issue: gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination means that many women depend on men; do not control resources; do not participate in decision-making at the family, community or political levels; live at risk of sexual violence and other abuse; and are not viewed as needing an education.

Yet, by protecting the right to education for all people, we provide an opportunity for an empowered, informed generation to take on all rights violations, to change gender norms, chip away at poverty, and envision a different world. Those facts and figures above show that education has this power.

The report begins by telling us, “It is 2011, and 1 in 4 women cannot read this sentence.”

Pause for a moment. Wrap your head around that: 1 in 4.

We agreed that education is a no-brainer, right? By committing ourselves to ensuring girls’ rights are protected—that we’re not just counting little-girl heads sitting in schools and calling it a day—we can change that statistic of 1 in 4. In the process, we might just give millions the opportunity to lift their families out of poverty and carry on the fight for women’s rights.

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23 thoughts on “What Is Girls' Education Without Human Rights?

  1. LOL – it is kinda absurd from my point of view AI saying Muslim girls whould learn HIV and sexual protection. You are kind of comparing these decent girls to the western society where grls just sleep with anyone. Muslim girls in that sense are educated in a religious manner to stay away and avoid such conduct – Just a thought.

  2. LOL – it is kinda absurd from my point of view AI saying Muslim girls whould learn HIV and sexual protection. You are kind of comparing these decent girls to the western society where grls just sleep with anyone. Muslim girls in that sense are educated in a religious manner to stay away and avoid such conduct – Just a thought.

  3. Just because the girls in the photo are Muslim doesn't mean that the issue of girls education is only in reference to Muslim girls. I work to promote education for girls in Tanzania and Liberia who are a mix of various religions including Christian denominations, Islam and local religions. That you perceived the article to be so limited is laughable. The other 'lol' moment in your comment is that you think a) all Western girls sleep around and b) no Muslim girls do. I'm sorry the stereotypes run so deep for you.

  4. Just because the girls in the photo are Muslim doesn’t mean that the issue of girls education is only in reference to Muslim girls. I work to promote education for girls in Tanzania and Liberia who are a mix of various religions including Christian denominations, Islam and local religions. That you perceived the article to be so limited is laughable. The other ‘lol’ moment in your comment is that you think a) all Western girls sleep around and b) no Muslim girls do. I’m sorry the stereotypes run so deep for you.

  5. I want to open a school for women in Bangladesh, But I have not money now. I try to do established women empowerment work as possible as soon.

  6. I want to open a school for women in Bangladesh, But I have not money now. I try to do established women empowerment work as possible as soon.

  7. I received a grammar school education in the United Kingdom. I excelled all the way through school, however, the Blair government chose to wipe their backside on my education results.

  8. I received a grammar school education in the United Kingdom. I excelled all the way through school, however, the Blair government chose to wipe their backside on my education results.

  9. It is astonishing that 25% of girls are not being educated. An educated world is a safer and healthier world. All children deserve the right to an education, but many of the most rural areas simply do not have the infrastructure. That is why it's important to support organizations that are providing the tools necessary to achieve the UN's MDG to provide primary education to the world's children.

  10. It is astonishing that 25% of girls are not being educated. An educated world is a safer and healthier world. All children deserve the right to an education, but many of the most rural areas simply do not have the infrastructure. That is why it’s important to support organizations that are providing the tools necessary to achieve the UN’s MDG to provide primary education to the world’s children.

  11. I have no doubt there is a special hell for individuals who would use their power to exploit and abuse others. Not to sound trite but as sure as night follows day what comes arround goes around.

  12. I have no doubt there is a special hell for individuals who would use their power to exploit and abuse others. Not to sound trite but as sure as night follows day what comes arround goes around.

  13. This is really a crime against all of humanity. I mean that literally.

    How many female Einsteins were lost to the world because they were never educated? What great advances in knowledge have we all lost forever as a result? We will never know.

    How big a setback in human progress have we suffered as a species because these girls, representing a huge percentage of the human race have been prevented from an education and therefore prevented from having the chance to be doctors, to be scientists, to be engineers, to be teachers, to build businesses and create economic activity, to become great leaders and lift their counties out of poverty etc. ?

    All that human capital lost for ever. Just thrown away, as if these millions and billions of human brains, and surely the human brain is God's greatest miracle of all, all this brainpower that could have done so much good for the world if only given a chance, this was worthless to humanity just because the body containing those brain happened to be female.

    What a terrible terrible shame.

    Who knows, it is possible one of those little girls not being even taught to read or write, could have, if given a chance at an education, otherwise gone on to discover the cure for cancer.

  14. This is really a crime against all of humanity. I mean that literally.

    How many female Einsteins were lost to the world because they were never educated? What great advances in knowledge have we all lost forever as a result? We will never know.

    How big a setback in human progress have we suffered as a species because these girls, representing a huge percentage of the human race have been prevented from an education and therefore prevented from having the chance to be doctors, to be scientists, to be engineers, to be teachers, to build businesses and create economic activity, to become great leaders and lift their counties out of poverty etc. ?

    All that human capital lost for ever. Just thrown away, as if these millions and billions of human brains, and surely the human brain is God’s greatest miracle of all, all this brainpower that could have done so much good for the world if only given a chance, this was worthless to humanity just because the body containing those brain happened to be female.

    What a terrible terrible shame.

    Who knows, it is possible one of those little girls not being even taught to read or write, could have, if given a chance at an education, otherwise gone on to discover the cure for cancer.

  15. @Bubma: "educated in a religous manner" is an oxymoron. The word "brainwashed" is more apt. @ Judonimh: "…the human brain is God's greatest miracle of all….". is sheer nonsense. The human brain is the product of millions of years of natural selection. If girls are to be educated properly then their education should include the facts of evolution and that belief in the existence of supernatural beings is delusional. @Jasmine: I atttened one too, I am with you on that one!

  16. @Bubma: “educated in a religous manner” is an oxymoron. The word “brainwashed” is more apt. @ Judonimh: “…the human brain is God’s greatest miracle of all….”. is sheer nonsense. The human brain is the product of millions of years of natural selection. If girls are to be educated properly then their education should include the facts of evolution and that belief in the existence of supernatural beings is delusional. @Jasmine: I atttened one too, I am with you on that one!

  17. For those on the religious side – there will be a special hell of blood and stone for those who would imprison others based on their own convenient beliefs. Think carefully of what you do to others as it will most certainly be done to you. For those of you who prefer a scientific way — you deserve the freedom to grow and evolve in the ways you seem fit.

  18. To men who would not use their power to ensure the freedom of others your punishment is obvious and apparent — impotence with age — hence all of the need for viagra and having to use a condom during sex which prevents you from feeling the wetness of women

  19. For those on the religious side – there will be a special hell of blood and stone for those who would imprison others based on their own convenient beliefs. Think carefully of what you do to others as it will most certainly be done to you. For those of you who prefer a scientific way — you deserve the freedom to grow and evolve in the ways you seem fit.

  20. To men who would not use their power to ensure the freedom of others your punishment is obvious and apparent — impotence with age — hence all of the need for viagra and having to use a condom during sex which prevents you from feeling the wetness of women

  21. I thoroughly read through this post, and could not wonder but how this was particularly aimed at the muslim community.