Educating women and girls and its effect on mitigating climate change.

My Mother taught to me as a child the equality of men and women. How they were like the wings of a bird, both need to be strong but equal for humanity to soar to great heights.

Education for women and girls in developing countries.

The provision of education for women and girls worldwide is one of the most effective measures we can all take to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. Education is an intrinsic right for boys and girls but often cultural barriers and lack of money result in girls not going to school. Particularly in third world and developing countries, achieving both primary and secondary education for girls will enable them to reduce levels of poverty for their families and decrease population growth. Controlling of population growth is a contentious subject but needed where a county’s supporting agriculture and economy are not sufficient and threaten people’s survival. Education provides confidence, understanding and the ability to take action to provide for their family, their community and themselves. Women through breast feeding are mostly the first educators of their own children, adding to the importance of educating future mothers. Over many years, studies and observations have shown that educated girls are likely to earn more, contribute to the community economy and have less children. Worldwide provision of education for women and girls is something we can all encourage and possibly contribute towards. UNESCO reports that providing universal primary and secondary education to all children will cost an additional US$39Billion annually, which is equal to 8 days of global military expenditure (UNESDOC, 2015).

Women and girls living within communities that support their human rights, that are educated, can access family planning programs and support themselves financially, have less children. This is because of a less financial need for children in the labour force (UNFPA, 2014), (Miller and Spoolman, 2016).

The cost of female education has been measured at US$10.00/ton of CO2 reduction and family planning at US$4.50/ton of CO2 which are much cheaper options to reduce CO2 emissions than biofuels, nuclear power, wind power, solar power or carbon capture and storage. These population policies have the potential to reduce global emissions by 3.6 gigatons of CO2 annually by 2050 (Wheeler & Hammer, 2010). The total world CO2 emissions up to 2014 are 36.1383 gigatons (The World Bank, 2014).

Increased farm production; in poor countries women on small farms produce the majority of the subsistence food crops but have less access to land tenure, microcredit and technical information, such as non-chemical, regenerative farming practices.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that if women on small farms had access to these farm resources, production will increase by over 20%, then the number of malnourished people would fall and deforestation for new farming land will decrease.

One of the most important factors here is the legal right to own land and independently manage it; changing cultural and legal barriers to land tenure are more likely to be achieved by educated women coming together in farming groups and exerting their influence.

If the women working on these small farms have access to regenerative techniques, soil carbon will increase and together with less deforestation will greatly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere (United Nations Population Fund, 2014).

Family planning programs include education about birth control, birth spacing and healthcare for mothers and babies. Studies by the United Nations show that family planning reduces the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions and reduces the number of infant and pregnant women fatalities.

Major difficulties with the implementation of effective family planning still need to be overcome.

The UN Population Fund figures show that unplanned pregnancies account for 40% of pregnancies. Provision of readily available voluntary contraception and education of boys and girls about the responsibility of parenthood would help this situation.

The United Nations also provides information on the lack of access to family planning programs in many of the world’s poor countries. If unplanned pregnancies can be prevented it will lead to as many as 1 billion less people, with the associated reduction in greenhouse gases.

Poverty and cultural beliefs still account for many girls marrying before the age of 18 in less developed countries. Education together with its associated benefit of less poverty will greatly relieve this situation (Miller and Spoolman, 2016).

The text ‘What Works in Girls’ Education’ by Sperling and Winthrop gives a detailed description of the work done on girl’s education around the world. It is an encouraging read but also highlights what still needs to be done. It is available through the link below. I have included here a summary of chapter 4 which gives 7 points of evidence of what has worked in girl’s education.

Making schools affordable. From the year 2000 many countries abolished school fees, resulting in great increases in school student enrolments. The next step was to pay stipends to encourage girls to attend school instead of having to work.

Addressing girl’s health. School feeding programs are important in increasing participation, as is provision of clean water and functioning toilets.

Reducing the time and distance to school. Concerns for safety and reputation deter girls from travelling longer distances to schools. More schools need to be built. Cultural distance also reduces school attendance, if the school is foreign and unfriendly and located in a different community, this can deter attendance. A local community school may be needed.

Making schools girl friendly. Girl friendly amenities and features enable cultural requirements for privacy, and for safety, this could be separate schools for girls, different school hours for boys and girls where facilities are shared or walls to separate them, and having female teachers.

Improving quality education. Ensuring a girl has high-quality learning experience and education in school by the provision of qualified, skilled teachers who attend regularly and engage with the students.

Increasing community engagement. Engaging the community and parents, particularly mothers in the management of the school and participation on committees. This has resulted in improved student learning.

Sustaining education during emergencies and crises. This may not be in the same school building but maintaining familiar education and regular attendance, such as games and activities with an adult, helps children deal with the changed situation (Sperling and Winthrop, 2015).

There is also considerable evidence that supports the case that the education of women results in their increase resilience and adaptation to climate change, that is coping with climate changes that can’t be prevented or mitigated, because of more developed critical thinking and decision-making skills (Wheeler & Hammer, 2010).

Conclusion

The provision of education is an intrinsic right for boys and girls, and ensuring girls worldwide are educated to secondary level is one of the most effective measures we can all take to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. Considerable additional funding support is required but through education and family planning, great reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere will occur, that is, if soil carbon is increased, deforestation is stopped and population growth is reduced.

Rita in the photographs above, supports her 3 young girls at school by working cleaning houses and washing people’s clothes, even getting inside empty rainwater tanks to clean them and sometimes shoveling gravel on building sites. She carries all her own household water home in a 20 litre container on her back, buys the cheaper salty water for washing and the more expensive fresh water for drinking and cooking. Her children’s school charges fees each term, an extra fee for exams and a fee for providing lunch. Uniforms and books must also be bought. Government funding hasn’t come to all schools in Kenya as yet and the funded schools are far away from Rita and can be quite crowded.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), was formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), it is an international development agency which promotes right of every woman, man, and child to enjoy a healthy life and equal opportunities.

The 11th October is the UNFPA annual International Day of the Girl.

References:

International Day of the Girl. https://www.unfpa.org/events/international-day-girl

Miller, G.T. and Spoolman, S.E. (2016). Living in the Environment, (Ed.19) Canada.: Cengage Learning. Book.

UNESDOC. (2015) Pricing the right to education: The cost of reaching new targets by 2030. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000232197

Sperling, G. B., & Winthrop, R. (2015). What works in girls’ education: Evidence for the world’s best investment. Brookings Institution Press. http://repositorio.minedu.gob.pe/bitstream/handle/123456789/4481/What%20Works%20in%20Girl%C2%B4s%20Education%20evidence%20for%20the%20World%C2%B4s%20Best%20Investment.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

The World Bank. (2014). CO2 emissions. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.KT

UNFPA. (2014). State of World Population. https://www.unfpa.org/swop-2014

United Nations Population Fund. (2014). Population and poverty. https://www.unfpa.org/resources/population-and-poverty

Wheeler, D., & Hammer, D. (2010). The economics of population policy for carbon emissions reduction in developing countries. Center for Global Development Working Paper, (229).

45 years in Environmental Science, B.Env.Sc. in Wildlife & Conservation Biology. Writes on Animals, Plants, Soil & Climate Change. environmentalsciencepro.com