On International Women’s Day, let’s remember the challenges girls face in education.
What would your life be like with only five years of schooling? For many girls around the world, this is the most education they can expect and they are the lucky ones. Across Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of about 6 and 15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.
The socialization of boys shapes their expectations of the appropriate roles and behavior of girls, in contrast to their own, and validates the superiority of men over women. These norms are often strengthened and reconstructed by the families, communities and social institutions that they belong to.
“I wanted to become a doctor,” Thenmoli said. Her whisper echoed in the room which instantly fell silent. “There was no way even to get started when I was little.” Thenmoli pointed at her daughter, “Vijayalakshmi wants to become a doctor. She is only three. I will make sure she finishes school and goes to college.”
I was visiting a women’s group in Annathur village in Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu. This group had in the past been supported by the Pudhu Vaazhvu Project that also provided skills training for young people. I discovered that the group had mostly goat keepers, small dairy farmers, and vegetable growers. All women had managed to improve their lives with the support of the project. Yet our conversation was not about the women’s livelihoods. We only talked about how they could fulfil the dreams of their children.
“They choose computer training Sir…some of them nursing. All of them got a job after the training.” I was amazed, but then again Tamil Nadu is one of the fastest transforming states in India. “How about the boys?” I asked. “They chose driving, Sir, mostly light vehicles. The ambitious ones go for heavy trucks or forklifts.”
“So did any boy choose computer training?” I enquired. “No Sir, none of them did. But we did have one girl who chose driving. Girls are more ambitious!”
Wow. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in many impactful events during my years at the World Bank, but one of the most memorable will always be the conversation between 16 year-old girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafzai and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim during our Annual Meetings last Friday, in honor of the International Day of the Girl Child.
At a time of fundamental uncertainty on global financial markets, how should the World Bank help countries respond? Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of the global bond management giant PIMCO, took on this question during his recent talk at the World Bank, which was part of the PREM seminar series. One of his answers may come as a surprise: Invest in girls' education!
First, some background: El-Erian is one of the most influential figures in the world of finance. His firm manages $1.8 trillion in assets, an amount that comfortably exceeds Japan's foreign-exchange reserves, and he's on Foreign Policy magazine's list of Top 100 global thinkers. As a longtime former IMF official, El-Erian is also intimately familiar with international financial institutions.