What's the value of girls' education?

The right to education is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, perhaps the definitive distillation of universal morals for the world's populace to live up to. Upholding a basic human right alone ought to be reason enough to educate girls. 

In girls' education we also hold among the greatest drivers of actualising Sustainable Development Goal Numero Uno (aka #1 for any Hispanically-challenged readers) i.e. ending extreme poverty by 2030.

For those playing at home, extreme poverty is defined as living on under $US1.90-a-day. In 2016, I'd count my blessings were I able to buy a Mate from a milk bar for $1.90. Remember Mates, the caramel covered in compound chocolate that cost 5¢-a-piece when I was being educated? Do milk bars even exist any more?

Anyway, it's doubtlessly horseshit that 900 million Homo sapiens are still living on the equivalent of 38 Mates, adjusting for inflation to 1996 prices. Pardon the French btw. Actually horseshit a la Français is une crottin de cheval.

Anyway, horseshit that's bears a remarkable resemblance to Mates aside, it's not fair that people - anyone, yes even just a singular down-on-their luck individual - lives literally hand-to-mouth on a day-to-day basis.

Johnny Come-Lately: But won't we just be giving forever?

Dominic: (exhales deeply under his breath, palming face) Ohhh, Christ...not again.

No, no we won't be "giving forever", and heaven-fucking forbid were we forever charitable anyhow. What a thing that after realising from however many years of having the great privilege to live on this planet that giving makes us feel good. I'm forever of the belief that the programming of this Life we partake of deliberately allows us to remember-and-forget, remember-and-forget, in a virtuous cycle, that giving makes us feel good.

We sub-consciously lead lives of self-service til..."Hey mate, do you want a Mate?" And didn't that just give a big warm fuzzy?

But once we allow all those living in extreme poverty to gain a hand on the proverbial first rung on the ladder of development, they are then able to help themselves. Living hand-to-mouth in a perpetual state of daily survival disallows forming a grip on said first rung, as no surplus income means no tax revenues for the state, which ordinarily in developed countries pays for social services, infrastructure, etc, that further our standard of living for those unable to do so themselves by the simple of grace of God.

So until we help those living in extreme poverty get on the ladder, which we're on track to do by 2030 if all society mobilises toward that Goal (aka SDG #1), those living outside the grip of the development ladder will remain in that cycle intergenerationally.

900 million humans living in extreme poverty - how do we fix that? Well, for a many number of years now, the developed countries (jargon for rich countries) have committed to giving 0.7% of GNI as ODA. Now don't shit your breeches with those acronyms and decimal percentiles, we're all adults.

0.7% of GNI as ODA just means 7¢ of every $100 made in rich countries goes to poor countries. 7¢ for every gorilla (I've heard that as slang for a $A100 note; I don't know what it means) ain't much, right?

Extreme poverty done and dusted by 2030 if the rich countries (and that's your taxpayer dollars, you've already paid for it, no matter what) give 7¢ of every $100 made. SO easy.... 

Yet only the Nordic countries plus the UK and tiny Luxembourg have honoured it. Australia's barely halfway there, giving under 4¢ for every $100; USA, the biggest economy in the world's contribution's even more paltry, at under 2¢.

We have a population of 7.4 billion, 8 billion's going to come running up very soon, and 9 billion will follow even sooner. What's behind this trend of rapid population growth? Simple: very poor people making babies.

All people are well-entitled to make babies at their leisure, but there's a reason why the world's most vulnerable are makin' 'em like they're goin' out of fashion.

Poor families in developing countries have a desire to insure themselves against the future, and one of the ways they do this is having several children, sometimes in hope of having boys, as in some cultures, boys are considered to hold greater earning-potential.

Also, fragile environments make the deaths of several children in a family commonplace, the logic being that more children increases the chance of surviving family members, which can also care for the parents later in life. But for already-vulnerable families struggling to make ends meet, more mouths to feed can be a burden harder to shoulder.

Many of the same societies characterised by the above trend have also marginalised the value of women in their societies, whether due to tradition, religion or because men stubbornly and adamantly don't like asking for help, even when we really clearly need it.

For this reason, if the choice between educating a boy or a girl is a decision a household is facing, the choice invariably falls toward the child with a penis. Naturally, this hinders the girl's future prospects of income-generation later in life, and again, many of these societies see it fit to marry off girls at a relatively young age in lieu of allowing them to work or giving the gift of education.

After marriage comes babies, then more babies, some of which will sadly die, hence more babies follow to hedge this tragic bet. The short cycle between the high fertility rates of already-vulnerable mothers, coupled with the high infant mortality rate, high maternal mortality rate, the high disease burden coupled with inadequate health services, particularly in rural areas, and the sad fact that climate change is presently affecting the planet's most vulnerable people via extreme droughts, floods and other natural hazards, affecting their to build upon and invest in their livelihoods.

BUT...what if girls are educated rather than married off young? What does that look like? Firstly, the gender gap for both primary and secondary schooling is rapidly narrowing in the developing world, which is superlative news.

So a girl graduates high school, with the prospect of a tertiary education and increased power to seek employment and earn a living wage in the labour market.

She'll delay marriage and childbirth, have more power in both the household and society at large due to her earning potential, coupled with what is generally agreed to be a woman's sounder managing of household finances in the developing world.

The fertility rate drops, the infant mortality rate drops, the pace of population growth decreases, the rate of personal savings rises, allowing for greater personal investment, perhaps in a woman's own enterprise, which she now has the confidence to conduct.

With this rise in income, it may even be possible for the taxable income of the population to rise sufficient for the government to use any tax revenues received to invest in services to further the upward swing in prosperity, creating more opportunities to lift others out of extreme poverty.

Imagine half a society's labour market left unused? One entire gender marginalised for either traditional, religious or societal reasons? How could it possibly expect to prosper, to get ahead? Since the 1980s, China has pulled an overwhelming proportion of its enormous populace from extreme poverty. How? One of the key drivers was the empowerment of women, educating and entrusting them as the valuable members they are of the workforce that drives an economy. It's simple.

Educating a girl is the clearest path we have to lifting 900 billion from extreme poverty by 2030, thereby achieving the first Sustainable Development Goal, and doing what is plain and simple the moral thing to do as global citizens.

Take it from Kofi 'Black, Two Sugars' Annan, as he addressed the International Women's Health Coalition as outgoing UN Secretray-General:

"Study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women.  No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, or improve nutrition and promote health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS.  When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately:  families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings, and reinvestment go up.  And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, whole countries."