Girl Rising


The Importance of Educating Women in the Developing World


Shannon Sutherland


Girl Smart Africa

Women make up roughly 50% of the world population.

Unfortunately we also make up two thirds of the world’s uneducated.

Considering the fact that educating a girl is one of the highest returning investments in the developing world, these statistics are quite counterintuitive and their effects majorly slow our advancement as a species unnecessarily. Women operate a majority of farms and small businesses in the developing world and a girl with one extra year of education increases her income by 20%. It hinders not only women because of lack of education and respect, but also men at the loss of female contribution and insight. If India enrolled just 1% more of their girls in school, the country’s GDP would rise an estimated 5.5 billion dollars. Educating women can help solve so many of our world’s biggest social issues.

Girls with 8 years of education are four times less likely to be married as children.

Putting every child worldwide in school can potentially prevent 700,000 HIV cases annually.


The documentary Girl Rising brought three main themes to my attention regarding the education or lack thereof for women in rural areas. These three themes are isolation and enlightenment, unconventional education, and cycles of educating women. However before I explain these themes in depth I would like to make the documentary familiar to those who have not watched it. The film features 8 girls living in developing countries, all of these young girls are faced with different challenges and obstacles that keep them from an education. The girls were:

Wadley, a determined and resilient young girl who lived with her mother in Haiti.


Her education was temporarily interrupted by a massive earthquake, which reduced both her home and schoolhouse to a pile of rubble.

When her mother was not able to afford the price of an education, Wadley went to the makeshift tent which her school occupied every day. She advocates for herself and eventually convinces her teacher to allow her to continue learning despite her inability to pay tuition.

Suma, a strong and brave girl living in Nepal who was sold into slavery by her parents at the age of 3.


Bravely, she goes between owners for a majority of her childhood before a woman appears in the doorway of her master’s home and argues with her owner. The mysterious woman convinces her owner to allow her attend night classes where she begins to learn about many things including her rights and the ways in which they were being violated. Eventually, the same woman and her group of advocates manage to free Suma from her oppressors. Suma went on to join the group, which had freed her and continued her education.

She now uses her knowledge and education to free girls who are in the same situation as she once was.

Ruksana, is an imaginative and bright girl living with her parents and two sisters in India.


Ruksana | India

Her parents understood the vast importance of learning and sacrificed much including a home in order to send them to school. Despite harassment, police brutality, and poverty Ruksana and her sisters continued their schooling.

Azmera, is a placid and humble girl living with her mother and older brother in Ethiopia. She earned her education despite extreme poverty and the prospects of child marriage.

Yasmin, is a heroic and hopeful girl who lived with her mother in Cairo, Egypt. She goes to school despite societal disapproval and abuse.

Senna, is a poetic and valiant girl living with her mother and siblings.


Her father worked in the mines for a living and it ended up making him fatally sick. Despite poverty, isolation, hardship, and the death of her father Senna learns and grows through her school and her marvelous poetry.

Amina, is an oppressed and fiery girl who lived with her parents, brothers, and husband.

She lives in a small community in Afghanistan where girls’ educated is severely restricted and minimal and where girls must wear clothing that covers their entire body from the time they reach puberty until the time that they die. Her birthday was not recorded, and her education lasted only a few short years before she was forced to terminate it along with all other girls due to threat of severe punishment and execution.

Unfortunately, Amina does not receive and education and becomes a child bride.


Mariama, who lived with her father in Sierra Leone, received a full education and began a radio show. Despite the initial disapproval of her father, she continues to follow her dream and broadcast today.

Girls like Suma are unaware of the full extent and enormity of the injustices against them because they are not educated nor exposed to literature, newspapers or social media, which is not mediated or created by their oppressors.

However, once these girls are exposed to the truth they not only recognize and combat their own hardship but also fight vigorously to alleviate the same enslavement and denial of education from falling onto other girls and women.

This new knowledge results in many strong, educated, and empowered girls and women. Similarly, girls like Wadley and Azmera understood the value of their educations from an early age kept fighting for their right to learn as time went on and the number of girls in schools decreased.


Mariama | Sierra Leone

In many cultures around the world the education of sons is a priority over that of daughters.

Thirty-three million fewer girls than boys are enrolled in primary school worldwide and less than 50% of girls in the developing world reach secondary school. This is in part due to separate crimes and injustices against women and girls worldwide which effectively dehumanizes and keeps many of us silent, particularly those who are subject to or under threat of those crimes and injustices. A girl born in the world today has a 25% chance of being born into poverty and without an education she is powerless to help herself and her family rise up in society.


Yasmin | Egypt

The second theme I noticed was the means in which people are educated.

One major obstacle we face as a world community is the medium in which we can educate girls and women in developing countries, including those who risk social ridicule, bodily harm, and imprisonment or execution. Many innovative solutions exist to overcome this obstacle.

Particularly close to home is Pencils For Africa’s own Nicolas Meringolo who, as the CEO of the One Pencil Per Child project, is communicating with major pencil manufacturers worldwide to try to bring pencils into rural parts of Africa so that both girls and boys can go to school. This is important because in many rural parts of Africa a pencil is the only requirement to go to school.


Another way to help educate those under threat from their families, peers, or governments, are alternative ways of education such as night classes, workbooks and tools for self education.

The last theme I noticed was the creation of cycles by educated women. Suma was a part of the cycle in which women who had been freed from slavery went on to become educated and to free other girls. Ruksana’s father knew the importance of his daughters learning and sacrificed a lot to afford them an education. Educated women like Ruksana are twice as likely to send their own kids to school.

The sad truth is that education is a privilege afforded to far too few.


Women are so often denied education due to dehumanization, fear, and isolation.

One who turns a blind eye and does nothing to prevent the injustices and marginalization’s of women in developing countries is just as guilty as those who actively oppress and restrict the same women. There are many ways to help, from donating to advocating to raising awareness.


We as citizens of this world have an obligation to help each other in the face of such extreme injustices. It is our duty as decent people to do what we can to empower those girls in developing countries who are denied the right to knowledge and help afford them the opportunities that they deserve.



May 15, 2016