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Thursday, 15 February 2007

more than a woman..,,

There's further evidence on why our women are our long term hope for Zambia, in our drive to get out of the present doldrums. A recent report by the Global Health Council points to the clear benefits of empowering our women through education and having it central to any approach to social and economic development. There is an increasing widespread consensus that female education is a powerful factor not just for health but for the long term development of any nation, especially developing countries such as ours.

When educated girls become mothers, they tend to have fewer children, provide better health care and nutrition for their children, and are more likely to send their children to school - boys and girls.

Simply put educated girls:

  • Delay marriage and first pregnancy
  • Have skills and self esteem to negotiate family spacing and contraceptive use with partners
  • Experience lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and lower transmission of virus to offspring
  • Access and use prenatal and skilled birthing services
  • Have fewer low-birthweight babies and healthier newborns
  • Increase the probability of their children's survival and decrease the number of replacement children to offset expected child deaths;
  • Have smaller families;
  • Have better child care knowledge and self confidence to bring children to clinics when necessary;
  • Are better able to implement directions for care of sick children at home;
  • Have better access to information and resources needed for good maternal and child nutrition.

Girls' education is a powerful and sustained investment for health because it is a key step towards intergenerational transfer of improved prospects and improved health. Research consistently demonstrates that the more time girls spend in school, the better their chances of breaking the cycle of poverty and preparing the next generation to achieve better health outcomes.

Girls' education today leads to:

  • Higher education rates in the next generation with the attendant improvements in women's and children's health noted above;
  • Higher lifetime productivity;
  • Greater civic participation and reduced instability, thus lowering the probability of the very negative effects of conflict on health.

There's no doubt that if Zambia can invest more in girls' education we'll experience a dramatic improvement in the health and prosperity of present and future generations. Old debates about the best way to ensure girls' education have yielded to the recognition that many strategies work in varied contexts to get girls in school and keep them there. A recent analysis by Save the Children shows that political will and strategic investment are keys to success.

In some respect it is good to see that the recent 2007 Budget reports an increase in growth in basic schools enrolment of 13.1% between 2005 and 2006. The sad news is that the same budget also shows that completion rates at basic school level in 2006 for girls is still low at 17.4%. We also know that statistics continue to show that the literacy levels for women are lower than men especially among the 15 & over. The case for action is therefore urgent.

So what more can Government and interested Zambians do? First, we need clear and explicit goals by Government specifically focused on girls and female education. The current lack of explicit targets continue to be an handicap in our attempt to move forward as a nation. The Government needs to put women education as the top priority for the Education Ministry. Secondly, we must try and promote positive role models for our young girls - models that exude the beauty of our Zambian culture and at the same time embrace the importance of education and the need to be the best that you can be. Finally, Zambians abroad should do all they can to sponsor a girl child back home home. A small investment in a girl child could do a lot of wonders and reap the many benefits for our society that I have outlined above.


  1. I fully agree on the benefits of "girl education".

    However, perhaps you could be so kind as to specify what "explicit targets" you would like to see, as you have merely stated the obvious in this blog.

    Ps. On the note of sponsoring a girl-child. Our family did that. She got pregnant aged 14 or 15.

  2. Yes I do agree that there's more to the subject, but what I was hoping to do was encourage people to think about the issue. The underlying point I was trying to get across was that it has linkages to other areas, and therefore if we are truly serious about development girl education must be at the heart. I have not heard the Government preach this sermon, so pardon me for over indulging a bit.

    Can I also just say that infact it is not obvious at all...the inequality in terms of opportunities between men and women in our society is huge. Further more our society has always tended to teach to keep women at home, hence the lack of many positive role models for women compared to men, and the lower literacy levels compared to men. What I was hoping to show, was that it does not have to be that way. Aside from the social need for greater equality, there's a positive case for investing in child education.

    I accept that I have not fully set out the explicit targets, but I was hoping the reader would begin to think of such for themselves. Remember my blogs are aimed to encourage discussion and promote creativity in the mind of the reader . But since you have asked, I was thinking that perhaps we could explore affirmitive action for women in certain jobs or even introduce quotas for women. For girls in general, we need enrolment targets for them. We need Government to set a target of X% of women to enter UNZA etc. These are the sort of things I had in mind. But before setting such targets, the intellectual argument needs to won on why it is necessary. In small measure I hope my blog started on the road towards that, although I admit it has not arrived yet.


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