Help a girl, change the world

Written on October 4, 2011 by in News & events

Most of the folks who read this blog are women, so today I’m going to talk about something near and dear to all of our hearts: the well-being of girls and young women around the world.

Did you know that less than two cents of every international aid dollar goes to support girls? Less than two percent! And yet we know that investing in girls changes the world. When you educate a girl, she ensures that her siblings are educated; she marries later in life; she gets a better job (or founds her own business) and improves her family and community’s situation; she has children later in life; and she decreases the number of children living in poverty and desperate circumstances. Talk about power.

This idea is not new. Two years ago, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn wrote a New York Times article about this phenomenon, which later became the book Half the Sky, stating: “In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy. [Women and girls] represent perhaps the best hope for fighting global poverty.”

Here are some details:

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

And yet, currently, the fate of the 600 million girls living in the developing world is uncertain:

  • Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
  • 38 percent of girls in the developing world are married before age 18.
  • A survey in India found that girls who married before age 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped, or threatened by their husbands as were girls who married later.
  • Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.
  • 75 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds living with HIV in Africa are female, up from 62 percent in 2001.

(For references on all of the quoted statistics, check out the Girl Effect Fact Sheet.)

But these are just statistics. What if we attach a face to them? Let’s hear from 13-year-old Kidan from Ethiopia, who dreams of becoming a doctor:

Today, October 4, 2011, bloggers around the world are talking about Girl Effect, a movement started by the Nike Foundation to change the fate of girls and the economics of giving. To learn more, visit their website. And if this is a topic that matters to you, I encourage you to join the movement by writing your own blog post this week or investing in a girl. Go on, I dare you!


P.S. In case you were wondering, this is more than a blog topic to me. In fall 2009, I spent a month volunteering in Ghana to help empower women business owners through Global Mamas. Here are just a few of the wonderful people I met: Joanna, Sabina, Mary, Gifty, and many more…

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