Leaving No One Behind: Empowering Women Through Education

Special Focus : Innovating for Quality Education in Africa
Access and Inclusion May 07, 2018

Sustainable development begins with education which holds the key to achieving most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from healthy families to sustainable communities and peaceful societies. To achieve SDG 5 for gender equality and women’s empowerment we need first and foremost invest our effort in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all (Goal 4). 
According to “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, realizing equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the goals and targets. It is urgent to remove all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls and to systematically mainstream a gender perspective in the implementation of the SDGs’ Agenda. It is paramount to adopt and strengthen sound policies, enforceable legislation and transformative actions for the promotion of gender equality and women and girls’ rights at all levels.
Girls’ education has been extensively documented as the investment in it offers the greatest overall returns for development as well as environmental protection. It is the surest way to reduce poverty and accelerate development. Higher education, in particular, gives women the opportunity to work in decent conditions and empowers them to participate and take leadership roles in community life. They will become increasingly aware of their rights which they claim and defend with resilience in order to make their voice heard.
Providing education to girls has multiple impacts leading to improved childbearing practices, better family health and lower fertility, economic benefits, poverty reduction, environment protection, peace and social cohesion. It is proved to have a substantial impact on the welfare of women and children.
Evidence indicates that education is closely linked to the rate of maternal and child mortality. When girls with at least a basic education reach adulthood, they will not get married or have children at an early age and suffer less from complications that arise during pregnancy and childbirth. Educated women are better informed of specific diseases and can take measures to prevent them accordingly. For instance, educated mothers are more likely to protect their girls from harmful practices such as female genital mutilations (FGM). Female education contributes to the improvements in children’s nutrition and health. Mothers play an important role in early childhood development. Early childhood is a critical period marked by rapid transformations in physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. Maternal health and nutrition can reinforce educational prospects which in turn push gender equality among young children as well as between women and men.
Girl’s education is considered the world’s best investment as it brings high return not just for economic growth but in all the above-mentioned areas. More investments are in need for women’s capacity building so as to widen their access to resources and opportunities together with strengthening their decision-making power in public and private institutions. To achieve the SDGs a gender perspective with an emphasis on girls’ education need to be brought to the fore in the public arena and throughout the implementation of the agenda for sustainable development.