Friday, May 2, 2008

Reproductive Health and Education, The Mutual Relationship

The girl reaches age 5. Will she go to school like her brother? Or will she stay home to help her mother fetch water and take care of the new baby? If she starts school, will her father pull her out when they need additional labour in the field? Will her brother stay in school? When she becomes older, will she know how to resist the sexual advances of boys who find her attractive? What happens if she becomes pregnant? Will she be forced to leave school?
Around the world, education of boys is more highly valued than of girls. The benefit of education for girls is indisputable, but not all parents perceive this. There are tremendous gaps in both school enrolment and the length of time boys and girls stay in school. While nearly all boys begin primary school, only three out of four girls do so. In many developing countries, fewer than half of all children continue on to secondary school, and girls are far less likely than boys to do so. In Bangladesh, for instance, secondary enrolment is 25 per cent for boys but only 13 per cent for girls. This neglect has critical consequences for women’s empowerment as well as for their reproductive decisions.
The link between education and reproductive health is two-directional. Education of girls is closely related to improvements in family health and to falling fertility rates. In turn, girls born into smaller families are more likely to be sent to school and to complete more years of schooling.
Educating women benefits the whole of society. It has a more significant impact on poverty and development than men’s education. It is also the most influential factor in improving child health and reducing infant mortality.
The ICPD and FWCW affirmed everyone’s right to education and gave special attention to women and girls, recognizing that education is a cornerstone of women’s empowerment because it enables them to respond to opportunities, to challenge their traditional roles and to change their lives. Paragraph 4.2 of the ICPD Program-me of Action states, "Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process."
The two conferences also emphasized eradication of illiteracy as a prerequisite for human development. Globally, nearly 600 million women remain illiterate today, compared with about 320 million men.

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