At the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative being held this week in New York City, I posed a question to Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan regarding educational access for women and girls in the Middle East. The Q&A is below, and the full plenary session on Empowering Girls and Women is embedded beneath the interview.
Rahim Kanani: What is the single biggest challenge facing women and girls in the middle east regarding educational access, and what do you think the most promising solution is?
Her Majesty Queen Rania: I think generally the Middle East and African Region is one of the biggest spenders on education. In 12 countries in the Middle East, more girls are in school, especially in universities, than we have males. Yes is some countries there is the challenge to access and that has a lot to do with entrenched mindsets that need to be changed, but I think more importantly, the bigger challenge for us is how to get women into the labor market. That's what we really need to confront. But also, when you talk about changing mindsets, it's demonstrating what it really means when you say education. It's not just about educating a woman. When you educate a woman, you beat poverty, because women spend 90% of their earnings back into the family, where as men spend only 30 to 40%. It's a very interesting statistic. It's also a social vaccine. If all children received a complete primary education, over the next 10 years you can prevent 7 million cases of HIV/AIDS. Now that's a staggering statistic. Another example is education as a midwife. When a midwife is educated, maternal mortality levels go down by 10% for every extra year of education received. A child is 50% more likely to make it to their 5th birthday if their mother is literate, so it's not just about 'doing girls a favor', but it's about benefits that cascade throughout society that really make a huge difference. So when people really understand what the value of education truly is, it's such a compelling argument that it's difficult not to make that a priority for policymakers.
Cross-posted with the RahimKanani.com