The right to education is fundamental Human Right. Education is crucial for development of women. Rural women’s access to education and training can have a major impact on their potential to access and benefit from income-generating opportunities and improve their overall well-being.
Education without any doubt positively impacts the wellbeing of women in rural areas by enhancing their entrepreneurial skills and income.
Education among rural women also benefits the rural economy in form of increased agricultural productivity.
In developing countries, limited or no access to education for women is one of barriers that hinder overcoming hunger and providing healthy life for children.
Women education becomes a key determinant in their children’s survival and their maternal health. Lack of awareness is one of the causes of lack of education among rural women in developing countries.
Similarly, women education is very important for their welfare. Education has direct effect on income level.
Studies have shown that an extra year of primary school increases their wages by 10-20 percent.
Again education encourages girls to marry later, have fewer children, and educated girls are less likely to experience violence at home. This is even more relevant for rural women.
According to 2010 report by FAO, IFAD and ILO, women make up over two-thirds of the world’s 796 million people who are illiterate, and many of these live in rural areas.
Low literacy among rural women is a challenge for development in many parts of Africa.
Many rural women and girls in Africa do not know how to read and write as compared to male counterparts.
This gives rise to gender disparities and gender related violence.
“If you educate a man, you educate one person. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation”.
This development quote is quite applicable in relation to rural women’s education in developing .countries Educating women is widely felt and has strong spread effect in form of development to community.
An educated woman is able to educate her own children who, in turn, are more likely to receive school education themselves.
The family of an educated woman is likely to be healthier, with a lower prospect of infant mortality. Education also improves maternal nutrition during pregnancy and nursing.
Economically also education to rural women has effect in form of increase in savings and investment in rural areas. There will also be increase in agricultural productivity due to adoption of technology by women. Educated women can be asset as they are more innovative and also optimize on use of resources.
Education for All Global Monitoring Report in 2009 indicated that globally around 776 million adults comprising 16% of the world’s adult population were illiterate in 2006 of which almost two-thirds were women and the majority lived in South and West Asia, East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Female education in Rwanda
Strengthening education is one of Rwanda’s core objectives for rebuilding, reconciliation and development.
One of Rwanda’s greatest advantages is that multiple players including government, NGO’s, International organizations are committed to improving the education system.
The major breakthrough in terms of literacy rate among women came when in 2003 government abolished primary school fees leading to rise in primary school attendance by 94%. In Rwanda literacy rate rose both for males and females.
The 2012 Population and Housing Census in Rwanda observed that the percentage of persons with a secondary education level rose considerably from 6.1% in 2002 to 12.4% in 2012 among the entire population.
Still literacy remained high for males than females. In 2012, males were more literate (72%) than females (65%).
In 2012, the percentage of females who have never attended school was higher than the one of males who have never attended school (27.9% against 22.8% respectively) and the percentage of persons with primary education level is higher in rural areas than in urban ones (58.4% against 48.1% respectively).
This means women in rural areas have problems in attending secondary and higher education. More efforts are needed to educate and develop rural women.
In Africa, the majority of people live in rural areas. Development of Rural areas is essential for the development of the whole continent.
Women literacy in rural areas will help in development of the whole economy. In order to accelerate progress to achieve MDG 3 targets, development programmes must focus on women’s economic empowerment through education.
Educating rural women could include variety of approaches, including formal and non-formal education, technical and vocational training, financial literacy and numeracy skills etc.
In addition, information and communication technologies (including mobile and electronic communication, etc.), supported by the right policies and institutional frameworks can enhance awareness related to their rights.
Education will also help in reducing gender based violence and welfare at family level. It will also enhance savings, investment and productivity for the economy as whole.
The writer is a senior lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kigali Campus.