Investment in education is one of the best ways to help people and communities thrive. And, equal access to education is critical to the development of nations. Over the past forty years, the international community has worked to increase access to basic education and has seen some progress due to these efforts. But education disparities based on gender continue to be one of the most significant challenges in education globally, especially in low-income countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated all the factors keeping girls from long-term quality education. Those barriers are many and varied but include issues like poverty, child marriage, gender-based violence, and sexism. When schools closed during the pandemic, child labor and early marriage rates increased. And once girls are sent to work or married off, it is difficult for them to return to their schooling. Before the pandemic, approximately 130 million girls were not in school worldwide, and millions could not acquire a basic education. With the onset of the pandemic, school closures impacted about 90 percent of the world’s student population and disrupted the education of 743 million girls.
To help address the problem, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives introduced the “Keeping Girls in School Act” (H.R.4134 and S.2276) in Congress. The bill seeks to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance programs address the barriers preventing millions of adolescent girls worldwide from attaining education.
When adolescent girls remain in school, they are more likely to live longer, marry later, and have healthier children. Investing in access to education for girls promotes community development on both the local and national levels. And investing in programming that ensures all girls complete secondary education helps lift the economies of developing countries. Increases in girls’ secondary education and empowerment also promote gender equality and women’s rights, a priority of United States foreign policy.
Investing in girls' education is not just an investment in one girl’s schooling, it has a ripple effect throughout her life and on her family, her community, and the world.
Please urge your members of Congress to support the Keeping Girls in School Act!