Karin Ronnow is a writer and editor who has traveled extensively with Greg Mortenson, founder of the Central Asia Institute, which promotes education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. She has authored two volumes of “The Journey of Hope”—publications detailing the people and places touched by CAI’s remarkable efforts— and is at work on a third. She lives in Montana with her husband, their college-aged daughter and two dogs.
1. “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. But if you educate a girl, you educate a community,” says Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, quoting an old African proverb.
2. An educated girl will bring home what she’s learned, teaching her family about sanitation and nutrition, reading the newspaper aloud and even passing along basic reading skills.
3. Girls who are attending school are less vulnerable to domestic violence, rape and slavery.
4. The children of literate women dedicate more hours each day to their studies than children of illiterate mothers. They also stay in school longer.
5. Studies show that a girl’s chances for a better, healthier life and healthier children increase dramatically if she goes to school.
6. Educated girls grow up to be educated mothers who want their own children— including daughters—to go to school. “Although men help promote education, it is really women who value what education can do and carry on the tradition in society,” Mortenson says.
7. In many countries, women are responsible for any crops their family grows. Educated women are more productive and more efficient farmers, which leads to increased crop yields and declines in malnutrition.
8. Educated mothers are reluctant to let their children join violent extremist movements such as Al Qaeda. The greatest fear of extremist groups is “not the bullet, but the pen,” Mortenson says.
9. Education promotes more representative, effective government. Educated girls are able to read ballots and make their own decisions about which candidates to vote for. They are more likely to participate in political discussions, meetings and decision making, and their participation makes government institutions less corrupt and more responsive.
10. “If the girls aren’t educated, nothing will really change,” Mortenson said. “We can drop bombs, we can build roads or we can put in electricity. But unless the girls are educated, the world won’t change.”