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Girls' education brings enormous benefits far beyond improving the lives of the girls themselves. Once an educated girl becomes an adult, there are many continuing benefits of her education, not only for herself, but also for her community.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, a woman’s wages in developing countries will increase by 20 percent, on average, for each additional year of education she receives beyond grade three or four. Statistics show she will be more likely to share her earnings with her family and her community than will her brother, who is likely to keep half or more of his income for himself.
Her chances of contracting HIV will be greatly diminished, and she will be more likely to participate in local politics. A literate woman's children will have a greater chance of surviving past the age of 5, because a mother who can read is more likely to take her children to a clinic, and to be able to follow a doctor's directions. Her children will also be more likely to go to school. And education is the single most effective way to break inter-generational cycles of poverty and providing a path out of poverty.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the United States is working to send more African girls to school. The Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Program, part of the President's Africa Education Initiative, strives to reach bright girls who are orphans, handicapped, economically disadvantaged, or affected by AIDS. By 2010, the program hopes to provide some 550,000 scholarships, primarily to African girls at the primary and secondary levels.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in an article for South Africa's City Press newspaper, that "Empowering women is key to global progress and prosperity. This is not just a moral imperative – it is an economic one as well. When women are accorded their rights and afforded equal opportunities in education, health care and gainful employment, they drive social and economic progress. When they are marginalized and mistreated, as is the case in too many places in Africa today, prosperity is impossible."
Sending girls to school is a great investment in their future, and in the future of their communities.