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Educating Girls, Helping Society


Maria Arias, center, works with classmates during a math class at her public high school in Caracas, Venezuela, June 1, 2016.

Educating girls is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality, and can lay the foundation for sustained economic growth.

Educating girls is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality, and can lay the foundation for sustained economic growth. For every year of education a girl attains, her future earning potential goes up by 10 percent. And because she is likely to share up to 90 percent of her earnings with her family and her community, everyone around her will benefit.

“Simply put,” said USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Susan Markham, “when women are educated, they are a powerful force for change.”

Nonetheless, some 62 million who should be attending school are not. Too often they are marginalized and devalued, assigned to do menial chores, fetch water and watch over other children, while boys are expected to attend school, become breadwinners, and represent the family in public gatherings and forums, said Senior Coordinator Markham.

“To change this dynamic, we must focus on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide, while also engaging men and boys.”

But women’s empowerment is critical to our core mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies with healthy, well-educated citizens. These are some of the reasons why U.S. foreign policy prioritizes gender equality and the advancement of women and girls.

We help girls access primary education, including those living in crisis or conflict affected areas. Our reading programs ensure that girls have literacy skills that are foundational for future learning and success. We also support workforce development programs which will help girls gain better jobs.

From birth to adulthood, girls face innumerable obstacles that boys do not. We document and address these problems through a holistic approach which encompasses the interconnected events that resonate across a girl’s life from birth to adulthood, and work to change the perception of girls’ value at the individual, community and institutional levels.

And finally, through programs like Let Girls Learn, USAID works across sectors to address the root causes that keep adolescent girls out of school and limit their ability to make life decisions.

“USAID envisions a world,” said Senior Coordinator Markham, “where females and males are equally able to access quality education and health care; accumulate and control their own economic assets and resources; exercise their own voice; and live free from intimidation, harassment, and discrimination—valued as leaders, innovators, peace-builders, and breadwinners in their communities and societies.”

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