Expanding Access to Education

Education is a human right. It has the power to save and improve the lives of women and girls, which leads to healthier families and stronger communities.

According to UNICEF, receiving an education makes girls less likely to marry young and more likely to lead healthy, productive lives. Educated girls earn higher incomes, participate in decisions that affect them, and build better futures for themselves and their families.

Around the world, 132 million girls are out of school, including 34.3 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67.4 million of upper-secondary school age.
66% of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education, 45% of countries have achieved gender parity in lower secondary education, and 25% in upper secondary education.

Of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of them are women.
Gender-equitable education systems can contribute to reductions in school-related gender-based violence and harmful practices, including child marriage and female genital mutilation.

An educated female population increases a country’s productivity and fuels economic growth. Some countries lose more than US$1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys.


Investing in the education of women and girls yields high returns, such as breaking cycles of poverty, fostering economic growth and empowering women both in the home and workplace.

Zonta has a dedicated history of supporting women in education: We have provided more than US$12.8 million to thousands of women around the world through the Amelia Earhart Fellowship, Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship, Women in Technology Scholarship and the Young Women in Public Affairs Award.

The Amelia Earhart Fellowship expands opportunities for women pursuing advanced studies in the typically male-dominated fields of aerospace engineering and space sciences.
The Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship supports women pursuing undergraduate and master’s degrees in business management.
The Women in Technology Scholarship encourages women to pursue education, career opportunities, and leadership roles in technology and related fields.

The Young Women in Public Affairs Award recognizes young women, ages 16-19, who demonstrate superior leadership skills and a commitment to public service and civic causes and encourages them to continue their participation in public and political life.
In addition to its education programs, Zonta continually chooses international service projects that include the education of women and girls as key strategies.

As part of its activities, the Ending Child Marriage project improves education access and supports interventions that encourage girls to enroll in school, strengthens education systems and supports interventions that keep girls in school, and provides out-of-school girls with alternative learning opportunities.
Let Us Learn Madagascar, an integrated education program that addresses education and gender inequity in Madagascar through approaches targeted toward adolescent girls.

Zonta International is supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. Education is essential to a prosperous life, and we are proud of our continued efforts to fight for gender equity in education.

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Ending Child Marriage

ISSUE IN FOCUS Child marriage is any formal or informal union where one or both of the parties are under 18 years old, according to Girls Not Brides. Early and forced marriage happens across countries, cultures and religions. Each year, 12 million girls are married before they turn 18. It is estimated that 650 million women alive today were married as girls. Child brides are often pulled out of school and are at a greater risk of violence, being trapped in poverty and serious health complications or even death due to early pregnancy. Globally, one in five girls were married before age 18. About 250 million women were married before age 15. Girls with no education are three times as likely to marry by 18 as those with a secondary or higher education. 90% of adolescent pregnancies in the developing world are to girls who are already married. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as women in their 20s, and newborn children of younger mothers face greater risks of dying. Early marriage doubles a teenager’s chances of living in poverty and triples the likelihood she will be beaten by her spouse, compared to married adults. ZONTA IN ACTION Child marriage directly hinders eight of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. While the prevalence of child marriage is declining, efforts to address this human rights violation must be significantly scaled up. At this rate, it would take another 50 years to eliminate child marriage worldwide. Zonta International has partnered with UNICEF USA and UNFPA to support the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage , which is working to achieve lasting change on a significant scale by tackling the human rights violation in a dozen of the most high-prevalence or high-burden countries. Since the program’s launch in 2016, more than 7.7 million adolescent girls and more than 4.2 million community members have been reached with information, skills and services. In March 2020, the Global Programme kicked off Phase II. By 2023, the program plans to reach more than 14 million adolescent girls across 12 countries in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia with direct services. In addition to its support of the Global Programme, Zonta has participated in advocacy efforts around the world to shine a light on child marriage through the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign and other partnerships and events. The Zonta USA Caucus, a member of the National Coalition to End Child Marriage in the United States, is helping thousands of Zonta members and other supporters in the U.S. speak out against child marriage in the United States. In April 2020, the Zonta USA Caucus, in partnership with UNICEF USA, launched a yearlong national Public Service Announcement billboard campaign to stop child marriages in the United States. The billboards direct people to stopchildmarriages.org, which provides facts about child marriage in the United States and allows users to call on their state representative and state senator to support legislation to end child marriage with zero exceptions in their state. Additionally, clubs around the world—from the Philippines to Austria—are holding events to create awareness of early and forced marriage. With our international project to end child marriage and advocacy efforts from members around the world, Zonta is actively working to put an end to this human rights violation.

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