Educate Girls: Improve Health Outcomes in Nigeria

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Two thirds of the 775 million illiterate adults globally are women, as noted in UNESCO report. In most developing countries, less than 50 percent of girls complete primary school. United Nations reports children of educated mothers (even those with only primary schooling) are more likely to survive than children of mothers with no education. Uneducated women are more likely to live in poverty as such their children are more likely to suffer from preventable diseases due to lack of primary health care including immunization.

Some of the identified barriers to girl’s education in Nigeria are poverty, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and poor access to schools. In addition, there are many social, cultural and religious reasons which create road blocks to girls attending the school. Many Nigerian families with limited economic resources choose to enroll their boys in school rather than girls. In 2010, 61% of Nigerians were living in “absolute poverty” – almost 100 million people are living on less than a $1 a day. Girls are often sent to work and not to school. Some parents also keep their daughters out of school due to religious beliefs.

Multifaceted efforts are needed to increase awareness and create opportunities for educating girls in Nigeria. Federal Government of Nigeria has enacted laws and policies to support education. Administration can provide infrastructure such as schools in the close proximity for easy access, provide incentives to encourage enrollment of girls, and to decrease drop-outs of girls from schools. National Commission for Women, a statutory body, in Nigeria provides additional avenues for the promotion of women’s educational issues.

UNICEF Nigeria has made girls’ education a priority. Girl Child Concerns, a non- governmental organization in Nigeria, is working to create community awareness and sustain interest of community members in girl child education and to discourage and reduce early marriage. Strong Partnerships with traditional community leaders and religious leaders at grass root level may help to change social norms and religious beliefs and may lead to increase participation of community.

Girl’s education is considered the best investment in a nation’s development. Educated girls are more independent, have high self-esteem and are able to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. Children of educated women are more likely to go to school. This in turn improves education level in the future generations and may help reduce poverty.

All these reforms collectively in the long run contribute to improved national economy and improved health status of its people. Educated girls actively and effectively participate in the overall well-being of their families, communities and the society. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s not forget that educating and empowering girls not only can transform an entire nation but the whole world.

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3 Responses to “Educate Girls: Improve Health Outcomes in Nigeria”

  1. nkemdi Says:

    Hi Misp,
    thank you for this interesting posting. It serves as a reiteration of a clarion call. Many citizens of Nigeria have overtime perceived this challenge as a northern problem, and this forum poses an opportunity impress upon the nigerian public that it is a national problem.
    According to the Afri-Dev.Info report, the northern part of Nigeria bears this huge challenge the most. The report indicated the northern states have the worst girl child education, highest under 15 childbearing, highest female illiteracy, highest adolescent girl marriage and highest risk of maternal injury and death. This is evidence enough to stir the Governor’s forum to give adequate attention to this problem, as it affects the overall health and human development of the girl child. The girl grows into a woman, and women are the instruments of change in every family. However, we may not conclude that this is peculiar to the north, as there are states in the south east and south south zones that are also grossly affected. Though the top ten states with the worst indicators are from the north, the 12th & 13th are from the south and are rated worst than most of the north eastern states (http://www.premiumtimesng.com). We may therefore attribute this challenge to being a national problem and not a northern problem, which needs to be addressed from the roots. I agree that strong partnerships with traditional community and religious leaders at grass root levels will help to orient the community on the importance to a girl child education.

    Cheers,
    Nkem

  2. psantacruzortega Says:

    Dear Nkem, great post!
    in a recent paper on female education a quote that perfectly captures the situation was mentioned:

    ‘If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate
    a girl you educate a nation.’ (Dr James Emmanuel
    Kwegyir-Aggrey (1875–1927), Ghanaian scholar

    Doing something about female education will have repercussions in so many levels:
    – Infant mortality (10% reduction per extra year of female education)
    – Drastic Maternal mortality reduction
    – Increased contraception and family planning use

    Even big cultural problems that seem very difficult to address via policy or regulations can be improved with female education. For instance, the practice of female genital mutilation. There is a paper by Igwegbe AO (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15512641) that shows how the prevalence of female mutilation reduces in groups of women with higher levels of education.
    So, what are we waiting for?

    It seems that at least organizations like United Nations Girls’Education Initiative are catching a new wind and promoting the notion that investing in girls is beneficial at new venues. http://www.ungei.org/247_5671.html

  3. jhmoon1 Says:

    Thanks for sharing interesting and alarming story. I really enjoyed this. I truely agree on the argument that Nigerian government should put much effort on increasing education for girl. After reading this, I searched several articles related to womens health and education and it was truely amazing. (http://www.prb.org/Publications/Media-Guides/2011/girls-education-fact-sheet.aspx) As you mentioned, putting priority on girl’s education has so many meanings not only for women’s health but also on overall health of population or economy in Nigeria. By the way, I just wondered if there is any womens school for improving girls education level in Nigeria. I think building womens school is highly effective policy. Actually I am from S.Korea and graduated from Women’s university. Not very long time ago, Korea was one of the least developed countries in the world (only several decades ago), however economys and health status in S.Korea has been so much increased continuously and I believe the main reason was come from education (women especially). Among the efforts, I heard because people had built several women schools because we also have discrimination on women at that time and that was keeping women out from proper education. However, Women university or school has policy that student who are attending their school can not get married until graduation. Maybe this sounded so weired first, but I think this policy of schools served as protection to women who should be obey what men require for their life. Over time, as women’s social status increases thanks to education for education, and Korean society started development. Educated women worked, educated their kids, took care of their families, protected themselves from many social norms against to them. Of course there should be so many other factors simultaneously, however, I believe women’s education was one of the biggest factor how country developed and supported by increased number of women workers (not only men) with better health.

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