Schoolgirl, Guatemala

The upward spiral

With an education, girls and women:

  • are less likely to be poor
  • have fewer children
  • have healthier children
  • have better educated children
  • are less likely to contract HIV/AIDS
  • are less likely to be victims of sexual exploitation
  • are less likely to die in childbirth
  • have children much less likely to suffer from malnutrition
  • have greatly reduced rates of infant and child mortality in their families
  • are less subject to physical and other abuse by their husbands
  • raise agricultural productivity in peasant families
  • are able to participate in the political, social and economic development of their community
  • live more productive and fulfilling lives

Educating girls is more effective in reducing population growth than family planning programs. For every three years of schooling a girl receives, she will give birth to one less child.

Virtually every measure of social, political and economic progress is enhanced by the education of girls, who go on to mother a more productive, less poverty-stricken generation.

The education of girls creates an upward spiral that lasts beyond their lifetime, transforming their lives and the lives of their families by breaking the cycle of poverty.

Poverty in India

Poor and vulnerable girls


In the industrialized world poverty means not having what the middle class has. Such poverty can be found throughout the United States, and yet this is a deeply deficient understanding of poverty in the developing world.

The World Bank, the United Nations and UNICEF measure poverty in the developing world as living on less than $1.90 a day. Over 700 million people, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa and 70% of them women and girls, are poor by this definition. And most of them are not living at the poverty line but below it, often far below.

The international poverty line is 1/8 of the poverty line in the U.S. A poor person in the developing world survives--or doesn't survive--on a cost of living approximately equal to a cat or dog in the U.S. Poverty in the developed world and poverty in the developing world are worlds apart.

People trying to live on an income too low to have the necessities of life don't--they die. Six million children under the age of five die of poverty every year. Life expectancies in the developing world are ten to forty years less than in the U.S., as little as half a lifetime in the U.S. Many of the world's poor live no longer than they would have lived 2,000 years ago.

A tribal schoolgirl, India

Overcoming poverty


Poor girls may receive little or no education and are not taught the skills to earn an income. They do not learn about sanitation, nutrition and health care, which would prevent 90% of the illness in their families when they become mothers.

Sixty five million girls in the developing world are not in school--seven million more girls than boys. These girls, and others with little education, start raising families soon after puberty, beginning still another generation of poverty-stricken families.

In many developing countries poverty has been reduced to levels below those in America, while other countries are achieving rapid rates of economic growth that leave the lives of their poor unchanged. This difference is a consequence of providing, or not providing, an equal education to girls.

Educated mothers have fewer, healthier and better educated children, which begins to move their family out of poverty. When the children of educated mothers begin their families they also have fewer, healthier and better educated children.

Each generation moves further out of poverty, reducing infant and maternal mortality and increasing life expectancy for the entire family. The benefits of educating a girl continue generation after generation, beyond her lifetime.

Men may produce economic growth; it is women who produce human development.