25 Countries Where Women Don’t Go to College

by Staff Writers

In America and other well-developed countries, it's easy to take education for granted. For most women, if you want to go to college, you can make it happen, whether it's through student loans, scholarships, or alternative education. But around the world, millions of women and girls never have that opportunity, and often never even complete education past primary school. Here's a look at 25 countries where women are often unable to go to college, and in some cases, don't receive any education at all.

  1. Cambodia: Many women in Cambodia can't go to college because there's nowhere safe for them to live. Almost the entire educated class in Cambodia was wiped out when the brutal Khmer Rouge took power in the 1970s. Most women stop their education at or before puberty, with women making up only 15% of the students in higher education.
  2. Haiti: Women in Haiti do not have equal access to education, and the women in rural areas have even less access. Only 25% of women in urban areas have finished secondary school, and less than 2% of the women in rural areas have.
  3. Papua New Guinea: Sixty percent of the women in Papua New Guinea are illiterate. Even worse, in remote areas, illiteracy rates are expected to be about 85%. Literacy is just the first step to education for women.
  4. Palestine: Due to early marriage, women in Palestine frequently do not finish the mandatory level of schooling. Cultural restrictions may also keep women from colleges and universities, particularly those who choose to marry outside of their faith, who are often disowned by their families, harassed, and threatened with death. Women are underrepresented in most aspects of professional life, and there are no laws for women's rights in the workplace. Only 9.5% of women in Palestine are economically active.
  5. Pakistan: The education for Pakistani women is among the lowest in the world, with the school dropout rate for girls at about 50%. Urban women have more opportunities, however, with a literacy rate more than 5 times the rate for rural women.
  6. Afghanistan: Education in Afghanistan has historically been poor, but has gone from bad to worse under the Taliban. Only about 3% of girls received primary education under the Taliban's rule, and some Afghan girls have been attacked with acid on their way to school.
  7. Ghana: Girls in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Ghana, education is a privilege that few can afford. An estimated 23 million girls were not in school in the year 2000. Five hundred million typically start primary school, but more than 100 million children, two-thirds of them girls, will drop out in the first four years.
  8. Mali: Mali has compulsory primary education up to the age of 12, but only 49.3% of girls attended during the 2005-06 school year. This is due to poverty, early marriages, distance to school, and a lack of transportation, among other factors.
  9. Gabon: In Gabon, women are typically responsible for manual labor in the family, raising children and doing household chores. There are some exceptional women who have risen to power in the workplace and education, but females only represent 2.44% of Gabon's secondary education.
  10. Ethiopia: Only 16.7% of Ethiopia's 30 million women are considered to be literate. Education is open to girls in Ethiopia, but there is a negative social attitude toward educating women, and many textbook lessons are discriminatory or gender insensitive, and many girls leave school due to pregnancy, early marriage, or sexual harassment. Girls in Ethiopia, on average, only attend school for 2.2 years.
  11. Chad: Poor children, orphans, and child laborers are not able to attend school in Chad. At secondary school age, only 10% of girls have even completed elementary school.
  12. Niger: Women in Niger face obstacles to education and employment, typically early marriage and domestic work. The rate of literacy for women in Niger is 15.1%, and women only account for 22.15% of civil servants.
  13. Liberia: Although there are projects for women in education, few can actually take advantage of it. Typically, girls will drop out to cook and clean for their family or take on small jobs like selling food and water. Some become prostitutes to earn money for school, but then become pregnant and have to quit school altogether. Three out of five Liberian women are illiterate.
  14. Bhutan: Children in Bhutan often have to travel far distances to attend the closest school in their community. Three sisters in Bhutan live in a hut away from their family during the week so that they can attend their school, which is six hours away, and then they walk back each weekend to visit. Families typically cannot afford to send all of their children to school, so boys are often sent instead of girls, resulting in only 47% enrollment for girls.
  15. Malawi: In Malawi, most girls never make it to secondary school, with 67% missing out. Some girls at school-age are domestic workers, and take on domestic chores for employers that deny them their education.
  16. Nepal: Only 7% of students in Nepal reach the 10th grade, and the ratio of boys to girls in school is almost 2:1. Girls in Nepal may be sold into bonded servitude, which keeps them from their education, and overall, girls education is largely regarded as less important than boys education.
  17. Bangladesh: As is the case in so many other countries, girls in Bangladesh most often miss out on education due to early marriage. In Bangladesh, only 5% of adolescent girls can continue to study after marriage. More than half of girls under 19 are married, and 58% are pregnant or mothers.
  18. Turkey: In Turkey, about 500,000 girls don't go to school. Parents don't always believe their girls need to be educated, and some even believe that education will spoil daughters for marriage. Others face obstacles such as not having enough money, living too far from school, and worrying about security.
  19. Tajikistan: Many Tajik daughters are married off at a young age, or have to work in the fields and look after siblings, which keeps them out of school. There is often a lack of interest in education, and more interest in marriage among girls. Although state education is free, families cannot afford to provide for school uniforms and supplies, and girls often do not complete the mandatory minimum of nine years of school, with 25% leaving before reaching ninth grade. For every ten girls who actually do make it to the ninth grade, four of those do not continue to complete two more years of optional school.
  20. Benin: Girls face major obstacles to education, including poor educational facilities and a lack of schools. Preference is often given to boys' schooling, and the attendance rate for girls is very low. As a result, illiteracy among women and girls in Benin is very high, with 80% between 15 and 49 years illiterate in 2005.
  21. Rwanda: In Rwanda, there is a good enrollment rate for primary school-97% of girls attend; however, less than 13% of Rwandan girls will attend upper-secondary school.
  22. Iraq: Forty-seven percent of women in Iraq are partly of fully illiterate, and education for women suffers from differences between regions, specifically the North and South. A lack of security has had an impact as well, with teacher and female student absenteeism at a high level since 2003.
  23. Guatemala: Less than half of Guatemalan girls never have the opportunity to enroll in elementary school, and only one out of eight Guatemalan girls will complete the sixth grade. Girls in urban areas have better opportunities than their rural counterparts, who may not have the safety or endurance to walk to and from a distant school each day, or must stay at home to help cook and care for younger siblings.
  24. Yemen: Even access to a primary school education is a challenge for girls in Yemen, with nearly half not going to school, and ultimately, two out of every three women in Yemen suffering from illiteracy.
  25. Morocco: Morocco has a high overall adult illiteracy rate, at 40% in 2007. 3/4 of women were considered to be illiterate in 2004, and in rural areas, education is even worse. Illiteracy for women in rural areas can be as high as 90%.