Discrimination based on gender is one of the primary impediments to education. And it affects boys and girls.

In some regions, boys’ educational opportunities are limited by gender roles that force them to work rather than attend school. These financial responsibilities are often increased in boys’ adolescent years, making it difficult for them to complete secondary school in some regions.

However, in many parts of the world, girls are most often the victims of gender discrimination as they pursue an education.

For instance, for many African girls, five years of schooling is the most education they can expect and they are the lucky ones. Across the sub-Saharan region, almost 33 million girls roughly between the ages of 6 and 15 are not in school. 56 per cent of them will never even set foot in a classroom compared to 41 per cent of out-of-school boys. Check out this data visualization tool to find out more:

UNESCO - Left behind
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics database

Moreover, poor girls from rural areas with uneducated mothers are the children most likely to be excluded from learning opportunities. In West and Central Africa, more than 40 percent of secondary school-aged girls are not in school. More than 60 per cent of illiterate young people in the world are women.

SSAGirls - English Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics database

For girls, the barriers to education are multiple and include:

  • Poverty
  • Values, behaviours and traditions that limit their opportunities
  • Gender-based violence in schools
  • Female genital mutilation and cutting
  • Child marriage
  • Distance to school and safety concerns
  • Lack of private sanitary toilets

Investing in girls’ education is good for girls. But it also can help change the world. Research has shown that educated women are more likely to delay marriage and childbirth, immunize their children, improve their earning potential, and contribute to the prosperity of their communities.

Educating girls can also save lives. For example, it is estimated that if women had a secondary education there would be 49 per cent fewer deaths of children under age 5 in low and middle income countries: That would save 2.8 million lives.