03/08/2013 10:40 am ET Updated May 08, 2013

Girls' Education: A Potent Anti-Poverty Vaccine

Girls' education is among the most potent anti-poverty vaccines. On International Women's Day, here is a quick look at three reasons why:

1) Educating girls boosts economic growth:
Roughly two-thirds of this world's 800 million illiterate adults are women. Educating girls just one year beyond the average fourth grade education increases their eventual earnings by 10 to 20 percent. Every additional year of secondary education can increase future wages by 15 to 25 percent.

2) Educating girls makes for a healthier world.
Educated mothers are 50 percent more likely to immunize their children than mothers with no schooling. As the World Bank noted, "Failure to educate girls and women perpetuates needless hunger." Women's education gains "contributed most to reducing malnutrition between 1970-1995, playing a more important role than increased food availability."

3) Educating girls is not just a prosperity issue, but a security imperative:
Today close to 40 million of the 70 million children who are out of school come from countries struggling against armed conflict. And as Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said, "A better-educated world is a safer world because low educational attainment is one of the few statistically significant predictors of violence."

Malala Yousafzai is a hero. And there are so many Malalas you will never meet.
Education is a right that young girls all around the world risk their lives for every day. They know that it is the gateway to a future that is brighter, healthier, richer, and more secure.