The second United Nation’s International Day of Girl Child was observed on October 11, 2013, to promote girls’ human rights. Why should anyone invest in our female children? Studies continually show that education for girls and women has positive ripple effects within the family, community, and across societies.

Girls who have been educated are more likely to marry later in life, have smaller and healthier families, and have greater job prospects. Instead of instilling and promoting her self-confidence, child marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education and limits her career opportunities. About 125 million children around the globe are denied the rights to proper education, and 70 percent of them are girls. African countries constitute the majority of the 30 countries having the highest percentage of underage child girl marriages.

Late marriage gives young women more control over their own lives. One in seven girls in developing countries marries before the age of 15 and 38 percent marry before age 18. Those who marry earlier are more likely to be victims of domestic violence. Research shows that education and marriage are often mutually incompatible life stages for girls in many parts of the world. Their transition from schooling to marriage is a most critical phase in their lives, and often determines future life prospects. A family’s decision to continue schooling for a girl often means a delayed marriage. Similarly, a decision to marry a girl early usually means an end to her formal education.

Girls’ aspirations converge around common themes. The most prevalent is the desire to be healthy and educated with viable livelihoods and career opportunities, financial security and independence. Other desires may be to marry and have children at the appropriate time. Underlying all the themes is a common universal fact – a shared inability to make decisions about their own lives even though they know what they need.

Education is fundamental to improving a girl’s life and broadening her view of what she can achieve. Education increases a girl’s income-generating opportunities and improves her health as well as her family’s health. Several studies have shown that every extra year of schooling for a girl leads to better nutrition and more education for her children.

Girls themselves recognize that education is fundamental to productive participation in society and their future prospects.