Discussing education and its importance for women's rights means thinking about it in several ways: the personal, the historical, the political, and what might be the most crucial one, that is, its ability to change the world.
First, the personal: as difficult as school can be for a girl who starts first grade already knowing how to read and who believes in fairies but hates gym class, school is also where I kept finding new pieces of myself that were so crucial to the overall puzzle. My hippie middle school in the US had me editing the school yearbook, learning Photoshop by myself, and writing long reports on Romanticism. High school brought me a teacher who kept throwing challenges at me, knowing I'd meet them. College was--college meant learning just how good I could be at a language that didn’t start out being mine.
But the personal can't be considered without the historical aspect. The first Swedish high school allowed to graduate female students opened in 1874. Before 1893, female students were not allowed to enrol at the American college I attended. A little more than 100 years ago, I would be very far from where I am today. I owe everyone who worked for reform a great debt of gratitude for my life, for who I am and what I get to do, and I can't ever forget it.
Now, let me make something very clear. I don't mean that we should be grateful for getting to go to school: education ought to be a right, not a privilege. But I can look at history and be glad that all those women and men worked to give us all a different world to live in, even as I am profoundly aware that we're not done yet.
The report New Lessons: The Power of Educating Adolescent Girls focuses on the fact that educating adolescent girls has a profound transformative power: graduating from secondary school statistically often means the ability to get a job, a later marriage, fewer children, and an easier time remaining healthy. In short, it's life-changing. In poor countries, less than 50% of girls finish primary school, much less go on to secondary school. The authors of the report make the point that every girl has a right to access to education; every girl has a right to that transformative power of education.
This means that initiatives beyond primary school need to be funded. This means long-term planning is an absolute necessity. This means, also, that the road to changing the world, well, you can see it, right? Statistically, educating adolescent girls give them and their eventual families a possible way out of poverty. Look, there it is. Ending global poverty sounds like an impossible dream, but there it is.
The Coalition for Adolescent Girls collects research, information for educators, and relevant links to initiatives one can support (like The Girl Effect and others). They're UN-founded and pretty awesome (the report I discuss above is from there too). Go see what you can do to help.