Education: A critical factor for female empowerment in developing countries

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Education: A critical factor for female empowerment in developing countries

By Sónia Gomes

What is the significance of education in general? The entire process of attending school, learning to read, write, and develop interests in different disciplines when you start absorbing knowledge is imperative for a number of reasons. And this does not only involve the person in question, but all of society.

A person with access to education develops critical thinking, acquires ways of exercising and articulating their rights, and can offer the world the benefits of their knowledge and talents. We need doctors, lawyers, engineers, but there would be no such people without our teachers.

But what about the women? How does education differ?

Discrimination and struggle are inevitable features of women’s history. Subjugated by pervasive patriarchy, women needed to persevere in the battle for equal rights and, even after a long time and with the growth of the feminist movement, the battle continues every day, continuously. A good education for our women can be the differential for this situation.

Investment in education is still scarce, especially in poorer countries, and women and children, especially, end up lagging behind. In many cases, men have better opportunities simply because they are born men. Good access to education is important for all nations and should be offered to all people. However, the situation of developing countries is aggravating. Children who are out of school and poorly educated become poorly educated adults who consequently form poorly educated families. In these areas, there is even greater discrimination between men and women, and girls focus on household chores, and because of a lack of information, they become pregnant early, possibly acquire preventable illnesses, and end up in subservient roles throughout their lives.

The lack of schooling has a direct correlation with a high rate of female mortality. It also leads to high birth rates and, consequently, to even higher levels of infant mortality and childbirth mortality. And all this could be avoided with basic, simple education.

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the resources for education in these countries are very low and women are poorly informed. Yet they can’t be blamed for their lack of ability to change their situation.

And how can education save them? It gives them the intellectual means to change the course of their lives. A basic education can do much for them:

Acquire critical sense

We are not born knowing how to differentiate right from wrong. Study is fundamental so that common sense and critical thinking are developed.

Reading, writing and attending classes that make women absorb knowledge about varied subjects and understand what their lives need. We can understand the world that surrounds us and its various facets: nature, literature, culture, and so on. Thus, a woman who has the opportunity to go to school, besides having learned to read books, write what she thinks and understand what is around her, will have the ability to decide what she wants, in addition to acquiring the awareness of what would be good for others. She can pass on her knowledge to her children and she can be active in the world in which she lives.

From Richard Blum

Exercise your rights

Even though there is still a long way to go, women have painstakingly acquired more rights over the years. It is impossible, however, that they can exercise these rights if they don’t know what they are. Think: in the macho culture that permeates our society, it is much more convenient for a woman to have no access to education. If she is uneducated, she will not seek to fulfil her true potential, any right of action, and will largely submit to the status quo. And this is a terrible waste.

Being healthier and living longer

Many women in developing countries acquire diseases over time simply because they lack information. STDs affect a large part of this group, mainly due to the reproductive role of the female sex. Without going to school, young girls start their sexual life early and, because they are not properly educated, do not protect themselves.

As already said, girls going to school will be studying instead. They will know that their bodies must be theirs, and they cannot be used in harmful ways. They will know how to protect themselves from these diseases and, most importantly, they will not begin to form families without adequate preparation. This is the great differential of education in the lives of these people: Infant mortality is currently high in poorer areas because girls begin to establish their families very early and without the conditions to take care of their children and themselves. Having acquired all the benefits of basic education totally changes this picture.

Acquiring independence

Women will be more likely to get a good job to start earning her own money with a decent education. Studying is, then, one of the first steps toward achieving true independence, not just financial independence.

Working and ensuring your own livelihood leads to female independence at other levels. She will lean less on her family and the men around her. You can put yourself in the job market. But to have that chance, good instruction is needed.

Women vote in developed countries and have managed to reach good positions, but the battle is not over yet even in those nations. Basic education has the potential to change a person’s whole way by the amount of information that they must absorb and acquire non-passively, that is, questioning.

Learning to question is one of the great teachings that must be applies, and we can make the case that learning need not interfere with our professional life. It shapes who we are as people in society and the world. 

Women from poorer countries who learn to question will be able to (with much struggle, to be sure) exercise their rights and seek more when it comes to equality. It will not be enough to accept what has already been offered. Women will have an active voice and will give their whole heart to achieve what is necessary in everyday life.

Investment in education has grown over the years but the path ahead is still long. The information has to be accessible to everyone, and only with much study can this be achieved. A woman should not just settle for what has already been achieved. There is still much to be improved when it comes to the relationship between men and women, especially in gender roles in society.

What are your thoughts?