Women across the world are disproportionally affected by poverty and many are deprived access to an education. Sarah Beeching working for the Global Partnership for Education organised an event with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria at the recent Financing for Sustainable Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The panel was made up of Ethiopian Minister of Health, Kesetebirhan Admasu; Eric Postel, USAID; Julia Gillard, Chair of GPE; Mark Dybul, Chair of GFTAM; Simon Bland, UNAIDS; Nick Dyer, DFID; Joachim Von Amsberg, CEO of World Bank and Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.
The purpose of the event was to highlight the many advantages of educating girls and young women. Investment in health and education creates a virtuous circle; educated girls tend to have fewer, healthier children. In turn, healthy children are more likely to attend school and learn better and educated mothers are more likely to immunise their children, understand the causes of illness, and know when to take a child to the clinic for care.
Investment in health and education creates a virtuous circle
Mark Dybul put forward the case for women’s education “It’s important that we place a special focus on educating girls and young women in particular; women are more likely to spend money on their children, research shows that women invest 92 cents of each dollar on education and food for their children, compared to just 40 cents per dollar for men.”
New evidence shared at the recent Oslo Education Summit, has estimated the costs and benefits of education from a health perspective. Education investments produce substantial health returns particularly for girls, including significant reductions in child mortality and a return on investment of $5 to every $1 invested.
Alongside many education “best buys” the research has also highlighted how school based health interventions can contribute to a reduction in gender gaps in education, including school feeding, deworming and micronutrient supplementation.
Education and health are transformative forces in society
Educating girls doesn’t come without its challenges. Getting girls into school, and ensuring they stay there and learn, is a daunting prospect. The estimated funding gap for the proposed SDG4, to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities, is $39 billion annually. Education is a patient investment, Julia Gillard explained “There are no quick fixes; the voting public often want to see fast results within electoral cycles but education does not happen overnight.”
Yet the positive impacts of investing in education are clear, countries such as Korea and Norway have proven this through their strong economic growth, an outcome of their robust educational strategies.
Yoka Brandt spoke about the importance of taking a holistic approach to a child’s development, “We understand these challenges all to well. UNICEF’s ‘whole child’ approach focuses on all of a child’s needs, from health, nutrition and education, to security and the basic human need for affection and care from family and friends. Children who miss any of these key building blocks, often fail to reach their potential. A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to reach its fifth birthday”.
Education and health are transformative forces in society; it is vital that the global community comes together to bridge the funding gap. Joachim Von Amsberg concluded “Nothing is more important than investing in health and education for women – it will lead to an eradication of poverty”.