As our country commemorates Women’s Day, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) has highlighted the progress made with introducing girls into the field of medicine.

“More girls than ever are joining the ranks of medical professionals. This is a pleasing development in our country, and we urge all other professions to do the same to empower young girls,” said Chairperson of SAMA, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom.

“The message we must spread is that girls are capable of doing anything they want; we are all obliged to create an enabling environment for them to achieve their dreams,” continued Dr Grootboom.

In addition, Dr Grootboom says education of women is vital to dealing with the social problems in South Africa. Data from numerous studies shows education is a driving force in improving the lives of all people, but especially those of women and their children.

The World Health Organisation report on social determinants of Health, Closing the Gap in a Generation, noted that infant mortality rates, for instance, decrease exponentially as a mother’s education increases. Education, it noted, also plays a pivotal role in the fertility rates of women, i.e. the number of births per women, with women bearing less children the more educated they are.

In Ethiopia, for example, the fertility rate for women with no education is 6.1 but drops to 5.1 in women with primary education. This number drops markedly to 2.0 in women with secondary or higher educations. The picture is similar in Nigeria where the fertility rate is 7.3 for women with no education, but 4.2 in women with secondary or higher educations.

“Educating women is of benefit to everyone in the country, on every level. As professionals, we therefore need to take on the responsibility of creating as many opportunities for the girl child to not only become educated, but to become part of the greater professional landscape in our country. In fact, it’s more than our responsibility, it is our moral duty to do so,” said Dr Grootboom.

He adds that empowering girl children has positive effects in other areas too. He says statistics show the number of women who agree that a husband can beat his wife for refusing to have sex drops dramatically the more educated a woman is.

“This is but one of many examples which prove educating women is vital to improving the social fabric of society. But we cannot simply pay lip service to this notion of uplifting and educating women every August, it is something we need to strive for every day of every year. And, we need everyone in society to pull in the same direction, because only then will we make significant changes,” concluded Dr Grootboom.

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