Relevance of Girl Child Education in Promoting Maternal Health and Reducing Infant Mortality by Nnenna Oparaocha

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The high health returns to investing in the education of women is unarguably ostensible.

In some African countries like Somalia girls are discouraged from being educated starting from the point of circumcision . It is widely believed and sadly accepted that the place of females is in the kitchen and in Nigeria the story is not different.

Educating women alters the traditional balance of power within the family, leading to changes in decision making and allocation of resources within the household. Therefore, educated mothers are more likely than uneducated women to take advantage of modern medicine and comply with recommended treatments.

Furthermore, education may change mothers’ knowledge and perception of the importance of modern medicine in the care of their children. In a study of child nutrition in the Philippines, access to healthcare services benefited children of educated mothers more than children of mothers with less schooling, a finding which suggested that educated mothers were more likely to take advantage of available public health services.

According to Unite for sight online report, findings from numerous studies of infant and child mortality conducted in developing countries over the last decade show a nearly universal positive association between maternal education and child survival. Education can modify women’s beliefs about causes of disease and thus influence both childcare practices and the use of modern healthcare services. These facts reveal that women are important promoters of health education and practices within the home, and the benefits of their education extend to their children and others.

A brief look at the link between child marriage and education.

About 2.9 million girls are married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, equivalent to one in eight girls in each region, according to estimates in the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report . These shocking statistics mean millions of girls are robbed of their childhood and denied access to education.

Child marriage in developing countries remains pervasive. One-third of girls are married before age 18. That’s 39,000 girls each day, with 1 in 9 marrying before age 15. Among countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with three years of schooling or less are up to six times more likely to marry young than girls with secondary education. The causality runs both ways: child marriage reduces educational attainment, and, conversely, girls with less access to quality education are more likely to marry early.

Child marriage often constitutes a violation of the rights of girls who are encouraged or even forced to marry early. This practice is driven by poverty, cultural and social norms, and pervasive discrimination against girls. Early marriage forces girls into adulthood and, frequently, motherhood before they are emotionally or physically mature. It profoundly affects a girl’s life, not only by substantially lowering her education prospects, but also by causing health complications and harming psychological well-being.

On the link between child marriage and education, study shows that the practice of child marriage remains highly prevalent around the world and is decreasing only slowly, not only in terms of the incidence of child marriage, but also in terms of measures such as the child marriage gap, which take into account how young girls are when they marry.

The study also shows that child marriage has a large negative effect on education attainment.

Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and child birth. With little access to education and economic opportunities they feel disempowered and are likely to leave in poverty bearing children they cannot take care of.

Benefits of girl child education on maternal and children’s health.

It is imperative to have in mind that the journey of motherhood begins with a girl child.

A literate woman seeks for and makes judicious use of health information.

Education makes a woman conscious about the well being of herself and her family.

Literate mothers make informed decisions over their health and that of their children, but an illiterate can even be misled by “hear say” and some superstitious believes.

Education helps to form the attitude to practice “manners of hygiene” .

Education encourages mothers to adopt proper feeding practices.

Healthcare givers are more likely to listen and accept contributions’ from an educated woman over her health and that of her child whereas the illiterate might be completely rebuffed .

Education allows greater exposure to the mass media, which can keep mothers better informed and not misinform them.

Education empowers mothers to make and implement proper and timely decisions regarding their children’s health.

Thus, educating the girl child is a gateway toward diversified aspects of modern life that significantly affect maternal and children’s morbidity and mortality.

Educate the girl child and save her from avoidable maternal death.

Encourage child education and not child marriage and save thousands of children from avoidable child mortality.

Nnenna Oparaocha sent this article this article from Nnewi. She can be reached via Sharonhonesty94@gmail.com

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