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According to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), education has been given a special focus because of the influence it creates in society. This is especially significant for developing countries, where there are countless of problems such as poverty, diseases, unemployment and homelessness. Many researchers have argued that is not only “ethically correct”, but also the best practice to improve the social well being of the society. This explains the common adage “educating a girl child is like educating the entire society.” As a result of the low economic standards in developing countries, the issue of educating girls as a prerequisite for eradicating poverty is un-debatable. Hoon Eng Khoo, the Vice Chancellor of Asian University explains that educating a girl child is mutually reinforcing for the society (Lloyd 115). This essay will explore the significance of educating women in Liberia, a fast rising developing country in Africa.
The Current Situation of Women Education in Developing Countries
The current statistics on women education in developing countries are exceptionally startling. A study by students from California University showed that, over 100 million children of primary age are not attending school. This is further augmented by the fact that the percentage of girls enrollment in schools keep decreasing globally. For instance, between 2002 and 2005, girls’ enrollment in schools decreased from 60% to 56%, thus widening the gap of young adolescents by a large a margin (Kane 56). In Liberia, statistics indicate that only 1 out of 5 girls attend secondary school. In addition, there are only 3 literate females in every 12 literate men. To sum it all up, a recent survey by the UN predicted that only 20 out of 115 countries in Africa have so far achieved gender equity on education. However, there is hope that most African countries will achieve the MDG goal on education by 2015 up to 70% (Lloyd 70).
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The Significance of Women Education in Liberia
In most developing countries, it has been a widely accepted norm in the African society that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, or just being at home to look after the family. Women in most African countries are reduced to house wives and home makers. Once they complete their primary school studies, they are not given a chance to continue schooling to the university level. As a result, they end up in early marriages and become dependent on their husbands who have a better education. However, in Liberia the access to education has empowered and transformed women. This has allowed them to traditional cycle of exclusion of keeping them at home.
According to King & Anne, the “access to education has prepared women in Liberia to take up challenging roles in business, government and civil society” (65). A perfect example is Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She has been described as a leader who came at the “right time” after the country underwent political turmoil. Besides, the large number of women in cabinet positions has helped in the reconstruction of the country after periods of war and economic hardships. Numerous research studies have evidently shown that women leaders tend to make wise decisions in terms of resource allocation more prudently than men. Besides, in a family setting, women have been found to allocate a large percentage of their income to education and food for their children. Therefore, investing in women education up to the university level is regarded as a long term investment for any country, because it strengthens the political and economic roles of women.
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According to the UNEP survey on education in developing countries, educating girls has a positive impact on their health and future generations. The organization found that children born to literate mothers are 50% likely to survive past age eight as opposed to illiterate mothers. Furthermore, it has been estimated that over 2 million children’s lives can be saved annually of women complete secondary school. Indeed, in Liberia and other developing countries, educated women tend to be more knowledgeable on their children’s nutrition. Besides, they also adopt effective medical care and sanitation practices (King & Anne 130).
The investment in women education in developing countries has also led to a significant reduction of the spread of HIV/AIDS. Lloyd asserts “educating a girl helps her to acquire knowledge on how to protect herself, her children and the family” (224). In Liberia specifically, studies have shown that the spread of AIDS tends to spread thrice as fast among the uneducated women. Therefore, women with university education will be more knowledgeable on how to prevent themselves against diseases, as opposed to literate women.
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In 2009, a report by the Center for Global Development in Africa signified that, on average “the returns on investment on women education were higher than for men.” This assertion is exemplified in a report by Goldman Sachs “gender inequality in education hurts the economic performance and status of a country” (Kane 56). Investing in women education in developing countries is economically beneficial, since it increases their rate of participation in the labor force. As a result, the GDP and per capita income of a country is likely to go higher, thus improve the overall production levels of the economy.
A report by the World Bank on the economy in Liberia found “women participation on the labor force augmented the annual per capita income by 0.38%” (King & Anne 148). In addition, women who are educated stand a better chance to bargain for high salaries at the work place. In Liberia specifically, the incumbent president has encouraged women to get an education by increasing their wages by 20% for every year spent in the University. As a result, women with university education earn competitive salaries similar to their male counterparts. Therefore, Liberia provides an excellent example of women education and empowerment in regard to education. It gives them an impetus for effective competition for plum jobs, with an assurance that education will change the society as a whole.
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Another significant outcome of investment in women education in developing countries is reproduction. Research studies have shown that educated women tend to have small families. In most developing countries, it is estimated that sending girls to school reduces fertility rates by almost 10% annually. In Liberia, for example, educated women have an average of 2 children while illiterate women have 6 to 7 children (Kane 86). The trend is similar in most developing countries.
However, high literacy levels among women lads to lower fertility rates, which results into higher investments in health for each child. According to Lloyd, “a decrease in fertility rates is beneficial to the economy because it brings about a demographic transition” (35). This means that there will be an increase in the working age population, thus leading to high economic trends. Besides, the access of education among women in Liberia has also led to a reduction of domestic violence. This is because women have become more independent, and no longer depend on their husbands for money. They are able to cater for their own expenses, thus reducing friction and tussles in the family. This simply shows that an educated woman is an asset to the society.
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In conclusion, the impact of educated women cannot be underscored especially in developing countries. From the discussion, it is evident that educated women play a pivotal role in various spheres of the society such as the economy, political, social and cultural spheres. Therefore, the continual access to education among women is encouraged since they are an asset to the community. If developing countries are to match the first world countries, women empowerment through education is fundamental. Furthermore, educated women serve as role models to girls to be more active and compete with men in the society.
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