In developing countries, poverty is often associated with low levels of educational attainments, as well as larger gender gaps in education. Women with lower levels of education are less likely to educate their own children. Poorly educated women may value education less, may have low scholastic aptitude which they pass on to their children or may be less able to provide complementary inputs to learning (e.g. helping children with homework). The low education of mothers may reduce their bargaining power within the household and affect family educational decisions if parental preference over education differs. Whether children are held back from enrolling in school is significantly influenced by women’s empowerment. The empowerment of less educated women has a significantly stronger negative effect on the likelihood of children being held back than the empowerment of better educated women (Brown and Park, 2002).
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Empowerment can be defined as the ability to acquire the capacity to manage one’s own life and to have the confidence to realize one’s goals, whether this means shedding the burden of poverty in the developing world, or succeeding in balancing the constraints of one’s personal and working life. Education is widely considered to be the main source of empowerment, and is a force that can bring vital results for women. In poor developing countries, women’s access to basic education is a top goal because of the positive contribution to development objectives. Empowerment of women basically means the acquisition of skills as well as knowledge and expertise (Kearney, p.39).
Another underlying reason for the continuing fight for women’s education is the population growth and concurrent reduction in death rates in Asia. One of the main factors in the persistence of high birth rate is the low status of women and their low levels of education. There is an undeniable linkage between eradication of poverty and education of women. Southeast Asia is slowing recognizing that educated women mean a stronger economy and a better future for the entire region (Kramarae and Spender, p.527).
High birth rates may reflect not only the survival calculus of the poor, but the disproportionate powerlessness of women as well. Many women have little opportunity for pursuits outside the home, because of power relations internal to the family. Women’s education turns out to be a powerful predictor of lower fertility. As women’s schooling increases, fertility typically falls. Women are getting educated reflects a multitude of changes in the society that empower women and provide them opportunities in the workplace. Thus, rapid population growth results from poverty and powerlessness and lack of education and opportunity for women. With an increased investment on women’s education, fertility would go down along with improvement in the standard of living (Lappe et al, 1998, p.32).
Finally, women with better education are more concerned with their children’s education and better able to manage their children’s health and development. Educating girls better must be part of any strategy for the reduction of poverty and improvement in the quality of life in the developing world. Women’s education apart from producing much needed economic growth, would benefit her as well and enable her to live a more rewarding life over which she has more control. If the goal of universal primary education is achieved, it will improve women’s lives both because they will gain from consequent reduction of poverty and they will be benefited from the education they receive (Brighouse, p.37).
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