Fundamental Enablers

Expansion of quality educational opportunities for girls and women and efforts to close gender gaps at all education levels.

*Education programs that focus solely on improving the quality of schooling (e.g., curriculum reform) are not considered here

© Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | Quinn Ryan Mattingly | Young students studying in Tra Vinh Province, Vietnam | 2018
How education supports women's economic empowerment
How education produces further benefit
Maternal health
Education reduces women’s risk of significant health problems
The relationship between maternal education and mortality among women giving birth in health care institutions
Women with fewer than 6 years of school are two to three times more likely to die during childbirth than those with more than 12 years of schooling.
Karlsen et al. | 2011
A study of women in 32 countries found that women with post-primary education were five times as likely to know basic facts about HIV transmission, prevention, and treatment compared to those without an education.
UNESCO | 2013–14
Family planning
Family size decreases as women’s education levels rise
Educating girls and ending child marriage: A priority for Africa
Educational attainment correlates with a substantial reduction in women’s total fertility (i.e., the estimated number of children a woman is likely to have based on her age group). This study posited that universal secondary education could reduce total fertility by one-third in the 18 developing countries examined. Roughly two-thirds of this reduction could be attributed to educational attainment, with the additional one-third stemming from a related decline in child marriage.
Wodon et al. | 2018
Demographic health surveys in sub-Saharan Africa showed that, on average, women with no education had 6.7 births, those with primary education had 5.8 births, and those with secondary education had 3.9 births.
UNESCO | 2013-14
Empowering women through education: Evidence from Sierra Leone
Survey data from Sierra Leone showed that each additional year of schooling increased women’s propensity to use modern contraceptives by 8 percentage points.
Mocan and Cannonier | 2012
The causes of educational differences in fertility in sub-Saharan Africa
A study of 30 African nations found that women with a secondary education had on average 3.4 births and a desired family size of 3.7 children, compared to 6.3 births and a desired family size of 5.6 children among those with no education.
Bongaarts | 2010
Increased educational attainment and its effect on child mortality in 175 countries between 1970 and 2009: A systematic analysis
Scholars estimated that over half of the decline in child mortality rates over the past 40 years was associated with increased educational attainment among women of reproductive age.
Gakidou et al. | 2010
Political empowerment
Girls’ education is associated with women’s increased political participation
A study in the Amhara region of Ethiopia found that rural women's involvement in political and economic activities increased as their level of education rose.
Bishaw | 2014
Engaging politically: Rethinking women’s pathways to power
A qualitative case-study analysis of women’s political leadership in eight LMICs concluded that education was critical for increasing the number of women leaders in government “beyond the elite cohort.”
Tadros | 2014
Intergenerational effects on nutrition and stunting
Children of educated women are more well-nourished and less likely to suffer from stunting
A multi-country analysis estimated that if girls’ secondary school completion rates were 100 percent, stunting would decline by 26 percent, improving the wellbeing of some 11.9 million children.
UNESCO | 2013–14
Effect of mother’s education on child’s nutritional status in the slums of Nairobi
Evidence from Nairobi found that children of women who did not complete high school were 29 percent more likely to suffer from stunting than those with a high school diploma.
Abuya, Ciera, and Kimani-Murage | 2012