UN Women: Education and Training of Women

A girl or a woman in school is realizing her fundamental human right to an education. She also has a far greater shot at realizing her full potential throughout her life, becoming better equipped to secure a decent, well-paid job, for instance, or leave a violent home.

Education is essential for women to attain gender equality and become leaders of change. At the same time, educated women benefit entire societies. They make substantial contributions to flourishing economies and the improved health, nutrition and education of their families.

The Millennium Development Goals called for achieving universal primary education by 2015, among boys and girls. Today, the world is closer than ever before to that goal, with 90 per cent of children in developing regions and 96 per cent in developed regions enjoying primary education. All developing regions have also achieved or are close to achieving gender parity at the primary school level. However, these gender disparities widen in secondary and tertiary education, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and South and West Asia. Some of the deepest discrepancies remain in the poorest countries. Globally, 80 per cent of adult women can read, but that compares to nearly 89 per cent of men, while in the least developed countries, only 51 per cent of women are literate.

Gender discrimination undercuts women’s prospects for education in multiple ways. Early marriages and domestic work take many young girls out of school. Sexual harassment in public spaces can confine them at home.

Biased teaching and educational materials limit fields of study, marginalizing women in the sciences, for example. Only 30 per cent of the world’s researchers in science are women. Even as more women enrol in universities, many stop short of pursuing higher-level degrees.

When 189 UN Member States adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, they made the education and training of women one of 12 critical areas of concern. They committed to equal access and financial resources for women and girls’ lifelong education, and the eradication of women’s illiteracy. They called for making education and training non-discriminatory, and for improving women’s access to training alternatives, such as vocational programmes.

Recent global progress towards universal primary education is laudable. But for women and girls, not enough. Women are still disproportionately out of school, and also impoverished, unemployed and stuck in the worst jobs. Education is their right and their lifeline to a better future.
Read more including infographics on world's literacy rates.