“I’m a big proponent of girl’s education. I believe that it’s a very important and a very valuable human rights obligation that all countries should be meeting,” said Kavita Ramdas, executive director for programs on social entrepreneurship at Stanford University, at the Wilson Center. However, “in the past seven to eight years we have found ourselves in a situation where there’s kind of an enchantment with girl’s education, as though it were the new microenterprise magic bullet to solve everything from poverty, to malnourishment, to inequality.”
“The outcomes that we ascribe to girl’s education…are not anything that I would argue with,” she said, yet, this enchantment “has happened simultaneously with a significant drop in both funding and support for strategies that give girls and women access to reproductive health and choices, particularly family planning.”
This is a problem, said Ramdas, because we cannot rely on education alone to do all the heavy lifting required to empower women.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize that there are societies where girls and women have achieved significantly high levels of education in which gender inequality remains,” she said, “for example, places like Japan and Saudi Arabia, where you have high per capita income, high levels of education, and yet…where women and girls are still marginalized and on the edges in terms of decision making.”
“I don’t think we have to wait for one to be able to do the other,” she said. “As we support programs for girls’ education, we also need to demand that those programs be buttressed by strong programs in adolescent health, strong programs in sex education, strong programs that actually provide girls and women with access to family planning and contraception.”