Education is globally acknowledged as the most powerful means of empowering girls and women and protecting them from the violation of their human rights. Investing in girls’ and women’s education can transform, and even save, lives—the lives of girls and women, and the lives of their families and communities. It is one of the most effective ways to achieve positive, sustainable change in the world, for everyone.
Education sets in motion a virtuous spiral: girls and women gain greater knowledge, skills, self-confidence and capabilities, improving their own life prospects—and, in turn, an educated woman provides better nutrition, health care, and education for her family. Education enables a woman to take greater control of her life and gain inclusion in decision-making processes, which unleashes her potential to contribute socially and economically to her family’s and community’s wellbeing.
Yet, today, millions of girls and women across the world live in debilitating poverty and are denied their right to education and two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.
“Experience has shown that when women have the freedom to make their own economic and social choices, the chains of poverty can be broken; families are strengthened; income is used for more productive purposes; the spread of sexually transmitted disease slows; and socially constructive values are more likely to be handed down to the young.” – Madeleine Albright, quoted in Women Empowered, by Phil Borges.
Even when education is, in theory, free, the cost of school uniforms, books and transport can be prohibitive for poor girls and women. There are other obstacles as well – cultural traditions and attitudes, and expectations that girls and women ought to bear the burden of domestic chores and care for their families, can all stand in the way of their attending school.
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Thanks to an education sponsorship programme, these young women have been able to pursue higher education in various fields, including teaching, social work, information technology, and management. These girls were all raised in the slums of Cebu City in the Philippines and are the first college graduates in their families and communities. Their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers were born into poverty in the slums. The education of these young women is the beginning of a virtuous cycle, for themselves, their families and the entire community.