Recent studies have shown that when women in third world countries are able to earn an income, they reinvest about 90% of what they make back into their families and communities. The more they earn, the more they reinvest in their homelands, and the longer they remain in school, the higher their earnings.
The Western world has spent billions of dollars “investing” in the third world only to see unconscionable amounts of food, money for business, and infrastructure building dollars siphoned off by warlords, dictators and guerrilla leaders. Education, however, especially education in STEM related fields, creates value, which is not easily embezzled from the poor and the entrepreneurs, the men, women and children of a nation.
It’s clear that, on average, the more years a woman spends in school, the higher her future earnings and the more of her income will be invested back into her town and her family. By spending development money to educate women, we invest in people rather than in mere things. Women with skills, who are highly motivated to return to their families, once back in their homes, generate consistent streams of income. Income generating people are harder to steal and exploit than cash and goods.
But, women with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics don’t just bring money into their economies. They bring new capacities, which extend to others in the community. A woman, who makes craft items or has an independent business venture manufacturing goods by hand for sale, can benefit from assistance from women in the community who have technical skills to share. Those who know how can help set up women to buy and sell their goods and services via the Internet. Others with engineering skills to contribute can help their towns and villages to develop water systems, sewerage systems and road and transportation facilities and industries.
The old cliché about a rising tide lifting all boats is especially true with the impact of educating women. The return on investment for the time, effort and dollars investment in women is only the first step. The beneficiaries to this wise investment will be stronger families, stronger economies and stronger communities.
The Benignant De Eagle Foundation is leading the way to a new and brighter future for women in developing countries. I have seen how education can impact devastated areas of the world. In my own homeland, educational opportunities for women have grown slowly. The difficulty is that while schooling may be available to women by law, often cultures such as the one I grew up in do not favor the education of women. In some cases, young girls are often actively discouraged from going to school at all. Girls in many developing world cultures are not even considered worth educating.
That’s why we need offer advanced educational opportunities outside their own countries to women for at least one or two generations in order to start the waves of change that we believe will surely come as a result of a substantial investment in STEM education.