Guest Blogger: Investing in Girls’ Futures Makes Cents

How Developing Economies Benefit from Educating Women and Girls
Developing economies can present many special difficulties when it comes to economic growth and expansion. Often, education is one of the largest of these problems, as an educated and productive workforce is necessary for any economy to grow into the modern global marketplace. While educational standards can be a problem for all, however, women and girls in underdeveloped nations often have even more difficulty gaining access to even basic education than their male counterparts. This is a problem that most developed nations have faced at some point in their own history, and so it should come as no surprise that it is still very real in less developed parts of the world. However, curtailing the ability of girls to access quality education puts a severe limit on the growth potential of any economy.
How Denying Women and Girls Education Harms an Economy
There are two primary ways in which limiting access to education for girls can damage the growth of an economy. The first is that those girls will tend to grow up to be either unskilled workers or, worse, not be able to participate in the workforce at all. This effectively relegates half of a country's potential labor force to low-wage jobs or dependence on families or husbands. In a developing economy, a skilled workforce is essential to create economic value. Limiting this workforce by effectively keeping women out of it is nothing short of disastrous from the economic standpoint, as the creation of value acts in direct proportion to the economically active population of a country.
The second outcome of a cultural policy of keeping women away from education and the workforce is that a country that pursues such a policy will tend to lose some of its best and brightest potential workers. Many young girls in developing economies will grow up in extreme poverty and will have little choice about the education and opportunities they receive. However, in even the least developed countries, there is some element of a middle economic class. Daughters born into this economic class may, through their parents, have access to a higher degree of education than their poorer peers. In many cases, however, the parents that are able to do so will send their daughters to universities in other countries in order to give them better opportunities abroad. This is one of the worst economic outcomes than can possibly occur, as it means that many of the few girls who have received access to decent education will leave their home country to create economic value in another.
Solving the Problem
In most developing nations, the prejudice that keeps women away from quality education is a cultural tradition that is hundreds or even thousands of years old. While this certainly doesn't justify denying education to young girls, this cultural factor must be understood in order for any meaningful dialogue about changing it to take place. Most who perpetuate this tradition do so because it is the way of things in their country and the way they themselves were raised and educated. Fortunately, many studies have been conducted by competent economists that have produced hard data showing the potential economic benefits of providing girls with access to education. While some individuals will ignore these studies, governments and leaders tend to take more notice, as economic growth is one of their largest concerns.
The use of external funding to open and sustain schools that provide education to poor girls is also a critical part of solving this problem of educational disparity. Many excellent organizations, like C2C, exist that use private and public donations, as well as volunteer teachers, to accomplish this. Opening schools that provide girls living in poverty with the quality education usually only made available to their male peers is one of the best ways to circumvent prejudices in existing national education systems.
Getting quality education to girls in underdeveloped countries can be a long and slow process. However, the results are well worth the time, effort and money that are required to make access to education for all girls and women a reality. National economies benefit from a more informed and productive workforce, while the lives of individual women are changed immensely by allowing them to earn higher wages and to participate as full economic members of their society.
This article was written by Jessica Jones at  - a financial news site in the UK, and a proud supporter of Commit 2 Change.