Editorial: Investing in women

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

MARCH, the Women's month, is about to end and may all those activities scheduled in celebration of this month have driven home the importance of women in a community's growth and development.

How women participation in community development creates a bigger impact than men has been well documented. No less that the World Bank recognizes the exponential impact women make for every little investment poured on them, starting from education.

Ensuring that girls stay in school, at the very least until high school already connotes later marriage, lower fertility, reduced child and maternal mortality, better nutrition and health, higher employment rates, and higher wages, the Goldman Sachs Global Economic Paper entitled "Women hold half the sky" said.


It said that with more education years, woman wages and jobs improve much faster than men's.

"Although education cannot explain all of the wage gaps with men, the returns from an extra year of schooling are proportionately higher for women than for men, particularly at the secondary level. Studies conducted around the world find the rate of return for each additional year of schooling to be roughly 10 percent. That is a global average; in developing countries with lower starting levels of human capital, returns tend to be higher. Education also increases the likelihood that women will have white-collar and public-sector jobs, and helps them to move away from domestic or informal-sector employment," the report said.

The effects too are intergenerational as improvement in economic status of a woman tends to also improve the productivity of the next generation. This cannot be said of men.

It is a fact too that women who are better educated tend to have few children. The Global Sachs paper placed this at one less child for every two to three years of education, while male schooling does not have any observed effect on fertility.

Therefore, go to the mountain villages or the inner city settlements where the very poor reside, observe the woman with a passel of children and think how much less children she will have had she been enabled to stay in school.

For that alone, the argument to keep young girls in school should already be a closed discussion.

But of course, there is the school to look into.

What are they learning, how are they learning, are they really learning.

Especially in the Philippines where there are millions of students in school, there appears to be a link between the distance of a school from urbanization and the benefits derived from schooling. Meaning, children tend to value education and their time in school more than the children in the urbanized areas. We are aware, too, of how cramped every public school classroom gets to be. Thus, it is easy to entice those in school to find some adventures outside, while making people believe that they are in school.

This problem had long been recognized by the Tambayan Center for Children's Rights, which has been working with street girls of Davao City for decades now. Thus, in supporting the education of girls, they keep tabs of how the girl is performing and makes sure that the parents are involved in the girl's education. Teachers are made to sign attendance cards, performance is closely monitored, the teachers are constantly sought out for feedback, and these developments are discussed with the girls and the parents.

Why is that? This is in recognition of how difficult it is for girls to stay away from the enticing calls of the streets when the environment is not conducive for learning and the parents cannot be bothered by how they are doing. At the end of each year, Tambayan holds a party of sorts for all graduates and all those who finished yet another year in school.

Since embarking on this, almost a decade now, girls find fulfillment in staying in school and their performance have been improving.

What did it take to do what?

A little bit more investment in attention, in monitoring, and in interaction.

The result: one less girl wasting her life in the streets.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 27, 2014.


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