“Everyone has the right to education” says UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet in 2017 girls and women in many corners of the world still don’t get an equal opportunity to study - unlike their male counterparts. To make matters worse, there has been nearly zero progress in tackling this issue among world’s poorest countries. Denying education to girls has been shown to negatively affect the society - it perpetuates poverty and results in more child marriages among other things. Not to mention that educating women help close the pay gap between the genders. This highlights once again the crisis we have at hand and its adverse effects.
The struggle to get education starts at a very young age for many girls. In certain African countries like Somalia and Liberia, horrible conflicts devastated already fragile school systems. Girls from these areas frequently find themselves not having a school to join at all. Even when schools are somewhat available, girls are met with many barriers on their quest to get educated. These are caused by harmful social stigmas and frequently reinforced by their very own parents. For example, poverty-struck families of Nigeria send girls to work instead of studying due to the lower social status of women in the society.
Still, joining a school is not enough, as girls in many countries are forced to drop out before completing secondary (and sometimes even primary) education. This is frequently seen in Muslim-majority communities and is arguably connected to outdated religious customs. High value of chastity in rural areas of Yemen and India means that conservative parents refuse to send their daughters to mixed-gender schools or pull them out when they reach puberty. Meanwhile, in countries like Afghanistan girls become hostages of child marriage; at which point they have to drop out of schools and remain illiterate for the rest of their lives.
In countries that do provide education for women, the question of quality, equal choice and social perception becomes the next big focus. Outdated patriarchal beliefs often manifest themselves in governmental policy, rules of educational institutions and overall attitude towards educated women. In China, women are still prohibited from pursuing certain degrees like aerospace engineering, navigation, geology etc. China’s education ministry claims that it comes “out of respect for women’s safety”. This discriminatory attitude is also widely reflected in the society, as highly educated Chinese women are mocked and face media-enforced stigmas.
The situation in North American and European countries has become rather different. Here as many women as men graduate from schools and universities. Sometimes, in countries like US, Canada and UK, more women graduate than men every year. Still the battle for women education is deemed far from over, as the focus has shifted to women being equally represented in all the fields. Year after year, traditionally “masculine” subjects and degrees attract much fewer women at both school and university levels. In the UK, number of British girls pursuing some STEM majors is not only outstandingly low, but has also shrunk in recent years. This shows that even the world’s most developed countries still have a lot of work to do before the true equality in education is achieved.