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Women's Education in India

WID/98-1
Victoria A. Velkoff

Introduction

The Indian government has expressed a strong commitment towards education for all, however, India still has one of the lowest female literacy rates in Asia.  In 1991, less than 40 percent of the 330 million women aged 7 and over were literate, which means today there are over 200 million illiterate women in India.  This low level of literacy not only has a negative impact on women’s lives but also on their families’ lives and on their country’s economic development.  Numerous studies show that illiterate women have high levels of fertility and mortality, poor nutritional status, low earning potential, and little autonomy within the household.  A woman’s lack of education also has a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of her children.  For instance, a recent survey in India found that infant mortality was inversely related to mother’s educational level (Figure 1).  Additionally, the lack of an educated population can be an impediment to the country’s economic development.

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