Fight Poverty: Educate Girls

24 June 2009

World Population Day 2009 posterThe theme for World Population Day on 11 July 2009 is Fight Poverty Educate Girls. Here we look at reasons why this theme has been chosen and provide a few links to useful resources.

Currently 75 million children, of whom 41 million are girls, do not go to primary school. Whilst ‘educating girls’ may not initially seem an obvious theme for World Population Day, it is, in fact, hugely important because those girls are more likely to grow up to be women who have choices.

World Population Day on 11 July marks the date when the world’s population reached 5 billion (11 July 1987). There are now 6.4 billion people in the world, and there will probably be 8 billion by 2030. Nearly all the ‘new arrivals’ will be poor people in poor countries. So you could say there are just too many poor people. But another interpretation is that there’s just too much poverty.

Population growth and poverty go hand in hand. Poor people have too little of things such as land, fuel, water or social justice, for example — and too much of other things, such as pollution, exploitation or exposure to ‘natural’ disasters. At the moment people in the world’s richer countries have the lion’s share of the world’s resources. For example, according to the CIA World Factbook, the UK (61 million people) consumes 1,763,000 barrels of oil per day whereas Ethiopia (85 million people) consumes 30,450 barrels.

Poverty means a lack of choices, not just a shortage of money. Poor people lack opportunities for education, health care and employment. As UNFPA explain: “A woman who has health care, education and way to make a living will not only be better off than her poorer sisters but will probably choose to have fewer children — and she can make sure her children have the same benefits that she enjoys”.

Investments in education and health for women and girls are linked to increases in productivity, agricultural yields, and national income — all of which contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and lifting people out of poverty.

It is women and children in developing countries who will bear the brunt of the current global economic crisis. Policy responses that support women’s roles in the economy can help alleviate the effects of the crisis on development. It is women, more than men, who invest their earnings in the health and education of their children. So investments in public health, education, child care and other social services help mitigate the impact of the crisis on the entire family and raise productivity for a healthier economy.

UNFPA emphasise the importance of the words we use. “Choosing to have fewer children” is humans taking control of their own lives. “Reducing population growth” is other people telling them what to do. Which works better, in the end?

Find teaching resources
To find relevant teaching resources for World Population Day and the theme of girls’ education, try the following links:
» Population
» Millennium Development Goals


Links to further info
UNFPA Main website:
World Population Day:
State of the World’s Population – annual report:
Conversations for a Better World:
Use of the world’s resources The 300+ maps at show the world with countries re-sized according to the subject of interest. For example, you can see graphic representations of disparities in Industrial Water Use and Fuel Use.

If you have Google Earth installed you can download a layer which shows World Oil Consumption in 3D enabling you to compare countries.

Everything About Population These pages (in English) from the French Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques include animations, documents and fact sheets about population issues:
Population and Migration An Online CPD Key Stage 3 resource from the Royal Geographical Society with IBG
World Population Clocks A couple of websites showing live population counters:

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