The Girl Effect

Monday, September 19, 2011

By Maria Eitel – Special to CNN

Investing in a girl stops poverty before it starts. That’s the simple premise of the powerful force we call “The Girl Effect.” This week, The Girl Effect is on the global stage at the Clinton Global Initiative and the World Bank Annual Meeting. Take it from World Bank President Robert Zoellick or former U.S. President Bill Clinton: Investing in girls is smart economics.

Girls are the invisible infrastructure of poverty. While her brothers go to school, ask 13-24 year girls in the developing world why they’re not in education and 33 percent say it’s because of household chores. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19. There are slated to be 100 million child brides by 2020. Seventy-five percent of 15-24 year olds in sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV are girls.

When we get to girls in early adolescence – before they are married, pregnant, and HIV-positive – we invest in a solution for poverty, not a cure for its symptoms. Girls are the future mothers of every child born into poverty. Girls are integral to our food security, global health, peace and stability, economic growth – the whole gamut of investments, not just education.

A working paper just released by the World Bank, The Girl Effect Dividend, shows just how powerful girls are. Take Brazil. If young women’s employment matched that of their male peers, they would add US$23 billion to Brazil’s annual GDP. With nearly four million adolescent mothers annually, India loses US$383 billion in potential lifetime income.

Girls are unique change agents. Igniting her potential and transforming her world starts a ripple effect of change – for herself, her family, and her community. When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later, and has 2.2 fewer children. An extra year of secondary school increases her eventual wages 25 percent. Multiply that by the 250 million adolescent girls around the world living in poverty and you get the most powerful force for positive change on the planet.

Source: CNN (link opens in a new window)