For developing countries, the road out of poverty may begin in the classroom — with girls like the one at left. So says Jonathan Alter in this week's Newsweek, and he's got lots of data to back him up. Girls who go to school are more likely to have healthy children, forgo genital mutilation for their daughters, and avoid contracting HIV. They're also more likely to share their incomes with their families, while men keep a third to a half of theirs. Unfortunately, lots of obstacles stand in the way of educating girls.Parents in developing countries may be afraid to let their daughters travel to school and risk sexual assault. Girls may not want to attend schools with no girls' bathrooms. The lack of access to tampons and pads is a problem too, leading many girls to miss school during their periods. Since school is expensive, many families send only their oldest sons, even though, as Alter points out, their daughters are "actually much more likely to help their families." And, according to former Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling, girls need at least eight years of school to really make a difference. It's a little disheartening that the drive to educate girls focuses on their relative selflessness — it would be nice if boys gave back too, rather than leaving girls to be caregivers. But improving girls' education is important for the girls themselves, as well as perhaps the most efficient way to bring families out of poverty. So what can you do? Well, check out The Girl Effect for starters. Education: It's Not Just About the Boys. Get Girls Into School. [Newsweek]
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