Removing Gender Barriers to Empower Girls

Did you know that more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people are women, and on a global scale, 196 million girls are out of school? (UNWOMEN, 2012; UNICEF, n.d).

In this article, we will address this global injustice faced by women and girls, and identify the causes of poor education rates, its effects, and what all of us can do to help increase awareness of this matter.

Why is it important to raise awareness on this issue?

  • Reduce the number of forced child marriages.
  • Increase educational attainment rates.
  • Educated girls are able to achieve healthier lifestyles and choices for themselves and their families.
  • Girls’ education strengthens the economies by increasing employment opportunities.
Empowering girls
Girls education


What are the common barriers to girls’ education?

  • Poverty

Poverty has a huge influence on an individual’s access to education alone, however, it is more recognized as a barrier to girls in comparison to boys (World Bank, 2021). Women and girls are highly affected by poverty, as they have been taught to have little or no say in their own decisions, even if it affects their own lives (Health Poverty Action, 2018). Often, poor households with many children, prioritize boys’ education rather than girls, as the mentality of girls doing all the household chores and care for their family members, continues (World Bank, 2021).

  •  Child marriage

Child marriage raises a lot of issues such as a girl’s overall development, as a result of early pregnancy, social isolation, schooling interruption, and a hindrance in her future opportunities, while also increasing the risk of domestic violence (UNICEF, 2021).

Unfortunately, child marriage is more common than you may think. It is estimated that 650 million women and girls who are alive today, were married as a child (World Vision, 2021). In 2020, child marriage statistics demonstrated that each year, 12 million girls are married before their 18th birthday (World Vision, 2021). Marrying before the age of 18 years old is a violation of basic human rights, yet, girls to this day are still being forced against their own will (World Vision, 2021).

Previous research has indicated for every year that a girl marries before the age of 18, the likelihood of secondary school completion reduces by four to 10 percentage points, taking into account their country or region (Global Partnership, 2021). Additionally, child brides who grow into adulthood earn lower incomes due to their lack of education, which prevents women from reaching their fullest potential in life (Global Partnership, 2021).

  • Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence consists of many categories such as physical, mental, and economic harm that is done in public or in private (UNHCR, 2021).

Again, the main cause for girls’ low educational attainment is gender-based violence, with an emphasis on child marriage and sexual harassment (World Bank, 2015). Girls experience sexual harassment constantly and protecting them from this form of violence not only on the streets when they are traveling to and from school, but also within their educational institutions (World Bank, 2015).

Statistics show that a great portion of women has dealt with sexual harassment in public spaces, or casually on the streets (World Bank, 2015). From this experience, 37% of girls did not want to attend school, while 10% chose to take a different route to their homes (World Bank, 2015). It was also recognized that two-thirds of college students experience sexual harassment, with further research indicating that only 20% of female students who experience sexual assault, report to authorities (AAUW, n.d).


How can you help promote girls’ education?

  • Promote and share inspiring stories of women and girls, and those who address gender equality to spread chance in a positive social and global manner.
  • Use your voice to spread awareness to those around you and educate them on the importance of gender equality, to increase knowledge and recognize these current issues.

●  Sponsor a girl – You can help us to empower girls by supporting their education. Our EdTech programs in Africa and Colombia, are broadening the pathways so that all girls of this generation, regardless of race, gender, language, ability, economic status, and geographic origin, explore their full potential through the power of literacy and technology.

Written by:

Nicola Miranda, World Literacy Foundation Ambassador Coordinator.



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