In many developing countries, girls’ education is not as important as boys’. If parents have to choose between sending their son or daughter to school, they will choose to send their son. This happens for a variety of reasons. In many cases, receiving education means paying for the expenses associated with going to school (books, inscription fees, transportation), walking for an hour or more through solitary terrain, early marriage and pregnancy rates, and cultural norms surrounding women, among many others.
In Chiapas, most of our students’ mothers have three years of education. This means they haven’t finished elementary school! In addition, many women around Chiapas’ indigenous areas, do not speak Spanish. Although Spanish is Mexico’s official language, around the state there are about 13 languages that are spoken (tsotsil, tseltal, zoque, chol, and maya among others). In the rural parts, Spanish is taught in elementary school as schools gradually go from being bilingual (indigenous/Spanish) to fully Spanish. As you can imagine, not knowing Spanish can be a disadvantage for these women who cannot communicate with others who don’t speak the indigenous language and may have a hard time communicating with their children’s teachers.
Why the focus on women’s education?
It has been proven that providing women with education not only benefits the women but their families and communities. It must be emphasized that providing a woman with an additional year of education has greater benefits than providing men with the same additional year. Educated women, tend to invest their income in their family, as well as organize themselves to improve their community. Women with education tend to have healthier, more educated children, have access to the labor market which reduces the gender gap and increases household income and GDP, and women who have education are able to make informed political decisions which have positive impacts within their families and communities.
At Escalera, we believe everyone should have access to education but we love hearing stories about girls and their families who choose education over marriage or continue their education for other reasons. You can read more about Fernanda, a 15 year old who chose to cancel her arranged marriage and is continuing her studies and we can’t wait until more girls who’ve participated in REACH send their children to school and benefit their communities (in a couple decades)!