Gender inequality has been a constant struggle for women all over the world. Strides have been made with the women’s suffrage movement and feminism, but women are still at a large disadvantage in society. Women are still looked upon as the weaker sex and are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. Women are continually discriminated against in the workplace, legally, and socially. In regards to social discrimination, women are denied proper education which leaves them illiterate. Of the 775 million illiterate people in the world, 493 million are women. That’s two-thirds of that population. The graph below depicts the percentages.
The gender gap for literacy is extremely prevalent in developing countries such as India. From birth, girls are not seen as earning members of the family so their education is deemed a waste of time and money. Indian women are also denied education because their literacy status will possibly increase their dowry and/or hinder their marriage prospects. “Studies show that educated women marry educated men, and educated men require larger dowries for their wives. Even an uneducated man will demand a larger dowry for a literate woman. This occurs because the men fear that an educated woman might expose their ignorance and, above all, challenge their power position within the family.” The NRI, an Indian online magazine, reports that India is a gender segregated country and the lack of female teachers also contributes to female illiteracy rates.
According to SIL International, a non-profit whose focus is to promote literacy and linguistic research, a woman’s literacy status has an effect on her quality of life. For example, “educated women tend to begin their families at a later age and have fewer, healthier children” and “the families of women with some education tend to have better housing, clothing, income, water, and sanitation.” On the opposite end, UNESCO, a specialized agency centered on promoting international collaboration, reports that illiterate women in sub-Saharan Africa give birth on average to seven children and 37% of Brazilian women are without jobs due to their education status.
In recent years, literacy rates have grown, but women still fall short of men. Educating women lead to socio-economic developments such as political representation, income potential, and poverty reduction. As a nation, we should work to invest in the education of women so that they may have equal opportunities in life. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations stated at the 2010 International Literacy Day that, “Literate women are more likely to send their children, especially their girls, to school. By acquiring literacy, women become more economically self-reliant and more actively engaged in their country’s social, political and cultural life. All evidence shows that investment in literacy for women yields high development dividends.”