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Girls’ education – a tool to tackle climate change

4th March, 2021

The importance of educating girls extends way past the benefits for the individual child to have social, economic and climate impacts. In fact, research shows that educating girls is one of the single most effective ways of slowing and preventing the effects of climate change! Which is great! Because sadly, we don’t have time to waste.

The time for action on this issue is now – climate change is here, and girls are already being disproportionately affected by its results.

Researchers at the Brookings Institution have found that, in times of extreme weather conditions such as drought or flooding, girls are more vulnerable to being taken out of school so they can help their families make ends meet, either temporarily or permanently. They are also more vulnerable to early marriage, because their dowries can help ease the burden of scarce resources.

Project Drawdown, a resource dedicated to climate solutions, recognised the education of girls in conjunction with family planning measures as the SIXTH most effective way to slow, and even reverse the effects of climate change. The resource points out that an educated girl generally gets married later, and has fewer and healthier children which results in an increase in her life expectancy. If a girl is able to complete her education, she is also more likely to use her knowledge and leadership to support her family during weather events by finding a well-paying job, becoming the family’s primary breadwinner.

Importantly, an educated girl is equipped with the skills and resilience to withstand and overcome the shocks of climate change related weather events and changing weather cycles. 

Educating girls also has the power to give them a seat at the table in the political arena. Studies have shown that female leaders are extremely effective in conservation and protection efforts, and are more likely to pursue more sustainable futures for their communities. Women’s political empowerment is strongly linked to better environmental outcomes, including the creation of more protected land areas, the ratification of environmental treaties, stricter climate change policies, and smaller climate footprints.

Overall, estimates suggest that together with family planning, girls’ education has the potential of avoiding nearly 85 gigatons of carbon emissions by 2050.

For all these reasons and more, Cotton On Foundation is dedicated to prioritising a girl’s fundamental human right to an education by:

  • Supporting our partnered schools to break down the barriers that keep girls from staying in school
  • Providing clean drinking water in schools, so girls don’t have to be out collecting water
  • Providing resources and information so girls can manage their menstruation without missing school
  • Working with parents and communities to ensure they recognise the importance of education for girls

At the moment, 130 million girls who should be in school, are not. Can you imagine the change possible if each of these girls were afforded a quality education? The ripple effect of educating girls can be felt across the globe, creating better environmental and social ecosystems for our planet.