Girls changing the world – education as a climate crisis solution

“Educating girls is one of the most cost-effective, high-impact ways for every nation on earth to fight the rising temperatures and atmospheric changes that threaten us all.”

Shabana Basij-Rasikh

Education is a basic human right for all children. Yet so many kids all over the world don’t get to study or learn and so improve their future prospects. Especially girls. And especially as girls get older.

The reasons for this gender imbalance are complex and often reflect local social norms – girls are expected to help out at home more, further education for boys is more valued, schools don’t have the facilities girls need when they’re menstruating….

According to UNICEF, 129 million girls globally are out of school, around half of whom are upper-secondary school age. And only 24% of the world’s countries have gender parity in upper secondary education. Girls may get a basic education but it so often gets ditched as they get older.

Improving communities

This matters! When girls are educated, society improves. Let’s list the benefits. Girls who receive an education…

  • are less likely to marry young

  • have fewer and healthier children

  • earn higher incomes

  • participate in decision-making processes

  • build better futures for themselves and their families

  • strengthen economies

  • reduce inequality

These girls grow up to be women who are central to their communities and can provide for their families. They take up leadership roles. An educated girl means a more stable, resilient society that gives everyone, boys and men included, the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

The social benefits of ensuring that girls have access to a good education are so clear that Education and Gender Equality are two of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

But how is educating girls relevant to the climate and ecological crisis we’re facing?

A climate change solution

Surprisingly (or maybe not when you think about it), investing in girls’ education has a positive environmental impact too.

In 2017, Project Drawdown conducted a comprehensive review of practical solutions to slow and even reverse global warming. The team methodically analyzed the effectiveness of different ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and came up with a list of the top 100 solutions. Educating girls was at number 6.

You read that right – number six. They found it had more impact on reducing emissions than electric vehicles (#26), renewable energy generation like offshore wind turbines (#22) and rooftop solar panels (#10), or even regenerative agriculture (#11).

More recently, their updated analysis combines education for girls with access to voluntary family planning services and enhanced bodily autonomy. Together, these impact population growth, which in turn impacts demands for energy, building space, food, and transportation. The research finds that, “fostering equality through this solution could reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by nearly 70 gigatons between 2020 and 2050.”

It’s an impressive claim, even taking into account that global population growth is uneven and consumption per person is unequal – compare the average American’s annual emissions of 15.52 tonnes of CO2 to the average Indian’s 1.91 tonnes. But the complexity of such historical systemic inequalities is paralyzing for most of us, so focusing on making a difference in a specific area makes action a bit more manageable!

Coping with the effects of a changing climate

Women are often at the frontline when it comes to adapting to new environmental conditions, as well as leading social resilience to climate change disasters. Project Drawdown points out that:

“Education also shores up resilience and equips girls and women to face the impacts of climate change. They can be more effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, even as nature’s cycles change. They have greater capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events.”

Girls changing the world

So while saving the planet is not the primary reason we’re developing online courses at Women Going Beyond, it is encouraging to know that what we’re doing plays a small part in addressing the biggest challenge of our time.

Help us make a difference and support our work by buying certificates for the girls!

Image credit: A Sky View of Earth From Suomi NPP from the NASA Image Library.

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