Investing in women benefits all
By Baroness Goudie, Chair of the Women Leaders’ Council to Fight Human Trafficking at the United Nations
Women’s issues are of paramount importance to our global economy and, indeed, our humanity. Parliamentarians, NGO’s and the Private Sector will fully appreciate that in order to be effective advocates they should fully understand the critical importance of raising awareness of gender inequalities and the tragic consequences of abuses happening around the world each day.
While comprising roughly half the population, women’s socioeconomic contribution is woefully undervalued. They are the primary family caregivers, educators, homemakers, and even, breadwinners. Nevertheless, they universally earn less than men, and are often denied property rights and fundamental freedoms of movement and personal agency.
The United Nations second millennium Development Goal is to achieve universal primary education. More that 100 million primary school age children remain out of school. Education is the foundation of all societies and global competitive economies.
When a country educates girls the mortality rates fall and health and education prospects for the next generation improve. Poor education holds countries back for generations.
In the United Kingdom and other developed countries, girls have at long last ceased to be at a disadvantage in the education system. At all stages, primary, secondary and tertiary, equality has now more or less been achieved. However, this position in developing countries tends to be very different. There are not only the extreme cases, as with the Taliban, of no education at all for girls. There are also many cases where schooling is in principal available but in practice often inaccessible, especially for poor families. Denial of education in these cases occurs dispriportatiately with respect to girls. There is of course a desperate need to tackle poverty and its causes generally. There is in addition a specific necessity to recognise the vital importance of gender equality, and its compatibility with genuine religious belief.
Religious bodies of all kinds have historically themselves been a major force in the position of education for boys and girls. They must not allow themselves to be an obstacle to public provision equally for girls and boys. All our children have the capacity to be a valuable resource for the future at all levels of society. This resource must be nurtured throughout the world.
Education is the foundation of all societies and globally competitive economies. It is the basis for reducing poverty and inequality, improving health, enabling the use of new-technologies, and creating and spreading knowledge. In an increasingly complex, knowledge-dependent world, primary education, as the gateway to higher levels of education, must be the first priority.
We must all work to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.