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Kids' Health Issues: 2014

Education for Every Girl

5 Global Kids’ Health Issues

Huge progress has been made in many critical areas involving children’s health. Yet there is still important work to be done, and most of it doesn’t involve expensive new drugs or surgical procedures. Instead, it’s about the basics that most of us take for granted. We have identified 5 issues that desperately need the world’s attention for the sake of children and their families, and suggest some ways that you and your family can help.

Education for Every Girl

The world has been captivated by the story of Pakistan-born Malala Yousafzai. In 2009, the Taliban banned girls from attending school in her region. When she was 11, Malala started a blog in which she wrote about life under Taliban rule and spoke passionately about continuing her own education despite the ban. A little over a year ago, when she was 15, Malala was attacked on her school bus by Taliban gunmen, who shot her in the head. Amazingly, she survived and recuperated in the UK, where she and her family are now based.

Since then, Malala has become an even more prominent activist for girls’ education, speaking worldwide, including an appearance before the UN General Assembly on her 16th birthday. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, released a best-selling memoir (“I Am Malala”), and has become the face of a movement despite ongoing threats against her.

Her activism is tied to Millennium Development Goals 2 (“Achieve universal primary education”) and 3 (“Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015”).

While primary-school enrollment in developing countries has risen to 90%, worldwide:

  • 57 million children are not enrolled in school
  • 122 million young people (ages 15 to 24) lack basic reading and writing skills; almost 61% of these are females
  • 799 million adults are illiterate, two thirds of whom are women

Globally, about 122 million youth are illiterate. More than 60 percent are female.

In Malala’s homeland, fewer than half of Pakistani women are literate, the literacy rate in some rural areas is as low as 7%, and more than 3 million girls are not in school.

The link to the cycle of poverty is clear. Girls who receive little or no education face limited job prospects, putting them at an increased risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation. They’re also more likely than educated girls to contract HIV/AIDS. Educated girls are better able to find good jobs, keeping themselves and, later, their own children out of poverty.

Not surprisingly, Malala has inspired people around the world to help. Here are a few easy ways to pitch in:

  • You can donate to help poor families send girls to school.
  • UNICEF’s Stand With Malala campaign: Contributions go to support UNICEF’s education programs in Pakistan.
  • Global Education Fund: This group works to educate all kids. You can donate, spread the word, start a fundraiser, host an event, and much more.

Find out how to help kids worldwide in other important ways:

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2013