“Gender equality is the focal point for human progression” is the bold statement made in an article addressing the twin issues of girls’ access to education and to medical care.
Packed with facts that are at turns either inspiring or shocking, the article on The Elders details the interconnectedness of health and education and the massive impact it can have. This is an impact not only on individuals but their families, communities and national economies.
Education and health is key in a workforce that can rise from poverty and toward economic growth. In turn that reduces inequalities and provides a sustainable path towards reinvestment, building of essential infrastructure, consideration of environmental impact and better health provision.
Nor are they two isolated concepts. Better education leads to a higher uptake of vaccinations, more family planning, cuts birth rates, improves nutrition, and lowers child and maternal mortality. Medical problems or the prohibitive cost of treatment reduce access to education as this becomes the greater focus for a family, especially one with limited resources. So the two feed into one another.
At the Gardiner Foundation we believe in the power people have to sustainably work lift themselves from poverty with the right support and investment. Not only does this benefit the individuals but their families, communities and wider economy. The profits from self employment or a small business are reinvested into education, healthcare, family and the community. The positive effects are felt everywhere.
Human Rights Watch has a special report on 1.5 million Tanzanian adolescents who are not in school – more than 40% of the age group who should be continuing their education. While the statistics are specific to Tanzania a lot of the issues are not, and they are barriers to education that can be found all over the world in developing countries.
A series of cartoons highlights the barriers between these children and secondary education and they might not all be that obvious at first glance, with girls in particular facing further hurdles to attending school.
Schools lack the funding for specialist equipment, for well trained and specialist teachers, for enough teachers and for provisions for disabled students or those with special educational needs.
Even though attending school itself is free there is still a long list of costs that must be met by the pupils and their families: books, lunches, uniforms, supplies, travel and transport.
Gardiner Foundation’s Trade to Aid initiative provides microinvestment to people in Ghana running their own businesses. Expanding and making a success of their business lifts them, their family and community out of poverty in a sustainable and long-lasting way. Profit from the family business can be spent on school uniforms and textbooks – provided by others in the community and contributing to the local economy.
Free education should not be substandard education and there is clearly work to be done at the national level of government. But it is also easy to see how much of a difference lifting families out of poverty would make and the knock-on effect this has down the generations.
A “serious obstacle” to sustainable development
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of how violence against women was a public health pandemic, human rights violation and a “serious obstacle” to sustainable development.
Recognising the vital role of women in supporting their families, communities and local economy, Ban wove together important themes for gender equality and how it benefits everyone.
Preventing women from working through intimidation or injury denies an essential part of the economy. Lost productivity and earnings affect individuals, households and the wider community. Not only that, but high levels of violence against women drains money and resources from health services and other government agencies and charities. Resources and attention that then must be diverted from other critical issues.
Evidence consistently shows that the whole of society benefits from a healthier, more educated, more empowered female population. The Gardiner Foundation makes gender equality one of its key concerns and supports entrepreneurs through the Trade to Aid initiative for a sustainable future free from poverty.