Influence of Girls’ Education on Reproductive Health and Delaying Marriage

Influence of Girls’ Education on Reproductive Health and Delaying Marriage

Since the Cairo Conference [ICPD], legal and policy changes have been, made in all regions of the world. They demonstrate government commitments to meeting people's needs for sexual and reproductive health education and services and to protect women from coercion in service provision and a wider range of gender - based discrimination. In many countries health and population policies have been expanded and re-oranized. Policies based on population control are moving towards more people-oriented, reproductive health approaches.

The national Report of Singapore at the Population and Development Conference 1994, says, among other things, "The reduction in death rates is the result of advances in public health and medical services, and in rising standard of living in Singapore brought about by economic and social progress." The Nigerian country report said," Education, especially among women, is a deciding factor in safe motherhood, child survival and poverty alleviation". A national report of Gambia commenting on education and fertility said," Greater access to education is an important underlying cause of differences (in fertility); the 1983 survey revealed a lower total fertility rate of 5.76 for women with primary and post primary education and of 6.4 for women without education."

The role and status of women is a critical factor influencing a country's efforts to reduce fertility levels. According to many national reports, there is a direct link between the low status of women and high levels of fertility. Many reports also cite studies correlating women's educational attainment with fertility levels. Another critical factor with direct impact on fertility levels is the age of girls when they get married. Many countries reported that fertility declines when the age of marriage rises. This can result from changes in legislation, or from keeping girls in school for longer periods of time.

The Independent Commission on Population and Quality of life was set up in 1992 with a mission to develop a fresh vision in matters of population and quality of life. The commission advocates stress on the body of human rights enshrined in the four major International Rights Treatise! These are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic. Social and Cultural Rights (ICFSCR), the convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CFDAW) and the convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). On education the commission wages a high priority for equalizing male and female enrollment rates at all level.

Universal compulsory primary education, it may be mentioned, was recognized as International human rights in the ICESCR, which was adopted in 1996. Yet in many poor countries it is still far from a reality. The commission proposes that the United Nations should declare the years 2001-2010 as the decade of universal basic education.

As part of the policy, tuition and book, stipends are provided to girls living in rural and periurban areas, along with free education through the college level for girls who are only child and free food for girls who attend school regularly. More teachers have been hired and the government is taking steps to discourage girls from getting married before the age of 18. The government has also launched a public awareness campaign to promote the benefits of girls' education.

As it has been seen, having only a few years of schooling (i.e., primary or less) may not make any significant difference in the use of some maternal health services. There is evidence from various studies that maternal education is one of the most important determinants of the use of health care services in developing countries. Various studies have found that women with higher educational attainment are more likely to use formal pregnancy-related care than tile less educated. Education empowers women to take personal responsibility for their health and for that of their children. Increased autonomy enables women to take advantage of the services that health care institutions and providers have to offer.

The analysis includes only women who had at least one live birth in the three years prior to the survey (i.e, between April' 90 and October' 93). The final sample size was 3417 women. The major factors we were interested in were women's education and their physical autonomy. Maternal education was classified according to three groups; no education, primary education, secondary education and above.

The level of female literacy in remains quite low. Among them in our sample, 55 per cent had never been to school, 29 per cent had secondary education and less than two percent had higher education. Bivariate analysis showed a strong relationship between women's education and their use of maternal health services. For example, women with secondary education or above were nearly seven times more likely to receive antenatal care than women with no education were at all.

Women with secondary education or above were 2.8 times more' likely to receive tetanus toxoid vaccination than were women with no education, 2.6 times more likely to receive antenatal care, and 2.5 times more likely to receive delivery care.

Women with primary schooling alone were slightly more likely (about 30 percent) to receive tetanus toxoid vaccination or antenatal care from formal sources than women with no education; there was no difference between these two groups of women with respect to delivery assistance.

Researchers in fine say, "The result of the study levels support to the view that education influences the use of reproductive health services more by changing women's attitude towards modern medicine and institutions than by enhancing, their autonomy."

A population Council report on its research released in July 2000, oil girls education confirms that "Incentives help delay Marriage." The Population Council news release says, "The Government has instituted two school incentive programmes. One scheme provides wheat to the parents of poor primary school girls and boys, the other offers scholarship money to female secondary-schools student :

Both programmes eliminate school fees and provide free books. Population Council demographer Sajeda Amim and her colleagues, Mary Arends- Kuenning of the University of Illinois and Gilda Sedgh, a doctroal candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health, assessed the effects of these programmes on various aspects of boys' and girls lives.

They found that the programmes have had significant influence. On average, girls and boys in all age groups now spend a greater number of hours on school activities than they had prior to the advent of the incentives.

Children are likely to have time to, make significant contributions to the family economy because school hours are short. Time spent at work, however, differed by bender. Between 1992 and 1996, for example, school girls aged 11 to 19 decreased the amount of daily time they spent doing house work by between 20 and 40 minutes.

During that same period, on the other-hand, boys aged 11 to 19 increased their hours spent in wage work by 63 per cent. In addition to the motivation provided by the schooling incentives, parents, impulses to send -iris' to school may have been strenathened because the work done by girls, largely house work, is more easily combined with school work than is the work done by boys often wage work," says Arends - Kenning

The research shows that the secondary school scholarships had an immediate effect in delaying marriage. In 1992, 36 per cent of 11 -19 year-old girls in the study villages were married, compared with 32 per cent in 1995.

The investigators speculate that parents are responding to the immediate monetary motivation of the schooling incentives, and this may be sufficient to have an effect on postponing marriage.

Additional Resources:
Girls' and Women's Education: World Education
The Cost of Delaying Marriage: Boundless Webzine
An Introduction to Delayed Marriage
Reproductive health: World Health Organization

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