Education lies at the heart of the well-being and development of all children and society at large. Girls suffer from greater disadvantages in accessing education compared to boys and are generally excluded from education in many countries of the world due to socioeconomic reasons.
The issues impeding girls’ development are severe and pervasive. For instance, data from www.girlsdiscovered.com estimates that 63 percent of girls aged 15-24 in Chad cannot read and 39.2 percent of all girls who should be in primary school are not enrolled. Similarly, in Pakistan 41 percent of all girls aged 15-24 years cannot read and the tertiary enrollment ratio is only 4.9 percent. The business community has the power to use such facts and turn them around, advancing development in a sustainable manner.
Educating girls empowers individuals, families, and communities and goes hand-in-hand with health and development. Education provides intergenerational benefits, such as increased ages of child birth, lower fertility rates, and healthier babies, and serves to prevent both AIDS and gender violence. Moreover, education grants girls economic empowerment. It is estimated by Girls Count that providing girls with one extra year of education may increase their future wages by 10-20 percent, helping facilitate economic development and increase GDP in countries around the world.
In today’s market business needs to be smart. Educating girls produces both social and financial gains and promotes sustainable business. Moving beyond philanthropy to responsible business, companies such as Nike and ExxonMobil have recognized the benefits of assisting girls in access to education and eventually participation in the formal economy, thus contributing to the economic growth of the country.
Smart businesses act responsibly and can utilize data sources such as Girls Discovered to identify any gender inequality risks that may surround their areas of operation and act upon them. Businesses should see such risks as opportunities to invest in the realization of girls’ rights and their access to education, and thus also in the health and productivity of future generations. By investing in girls, businesses have the potential of breaking poverty cycles, allowing girls to develop equally to boys, while simultaneously receiving long-term investment returns and increasing global GDP.