KARACHI: Girls with little or no education are far more likely to be married as children, suffer domestic violence, live in poverty, and lack a say over household spending or their own health care than better-educated peers, which harms them, their children, and communities, a new report by the World Bank Group finds.
According to a release from Washington, some 65 percent of women with primary education or less globally are married as children, lack control over household resources, and condone wife-beating, compared with 5 percent of women who finish high school, Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity finds.
The report distils vast data and hundreds of studies to shed new light on constraints facing women and girls worldwide, from epidemic levels of gender-based violence to biased laws and norms that prevent them from owning property, working, and making decisions about their own lives.
Across 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with no education were up to six times more likely to marry than girls with high school education, it finds. Nearly one in five girls in developing countries meanwhile becomes pregnant before age 18, while pregnancy-related causes account for most deaths among girls 15-19 in the developing world—nearly 70,000 die each year.
“The persistent constraints and deprivations that prevent many of the world’s women from achieving their potential have huge consequences for individuals, families, communities, and nations,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “Expanding women’s ability to make decisions and take advantage of opportunities is critical to improving their lives as well as the world we all share.”
“If the world is going to end extreme poverty and ensure that prosperity is shared by all, we have to have the full and equal participation of women and men, girls and boys, around the world,” Kim said. He launched the report here today with Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Despite recent advances in important aspects of the lives of girls and women, pervasive challenges remain, frequently as a result of widespread deprivations and constraints. These often violate women’s most basic rights and are magnified and multiplied by poverty and lack of education.
In all regions, better educated women tend to marry later and have fewer children. “Enhanced agency—the ability to make decisions and act on them—is a key reason why children of better educated women are less likely to be stunted: Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit,” World Bank Group Director for Gender and Development Jeni Klugman said. “Educated mothers have greater autonomy in making decisions and more power to act for their children’s benefit.”
In Ethiopia, one-year-olds whose mothers had a primary school education along with access to antenatal care were 39 percent less likely to have stunted growth, for example, while in Vietnam infants whose mothers had attained a lower-secondary education were 67 percent less likely to have stunted growth.
Voice and Agency, which builds on the 2012 World Development Report, focuses on several areas key to women’s empowerment: freedom from violence, control over sexual and reproductive health and rights, ownership and control of land and housing, and voice and collective action. It explores the power of social norms in dictating how men and women can and cannot behave—deterring women from owning property or working even where laws permit, for example, because those who do become outcasts.
In 128 countries, laws treat men and women differently—making it impossible, for example, for a woman to independently obtain an ID card, own or use property, access credit, or get a job.
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