Girls for Girls

To receive the highest return on investment available in the developing world, invest in girl’s education, wrote Larry Summers when he was chief economist at the Wold Bank. Despite the fact that in recent years more development aid than ever before has been directed at women, this doesn’t mean it is reaching the girls who need it. By the time she is 12, a girl in the developing world will most probably be cooking, cleaning and eating the leftovers of the men and boys. She is less likely to be vaccinated, to see a doctor, to attend school. Why invest in a daughter that will be working for your in laws rather than a son who will support you? In sub-Saharan Africa fewer that 1 out of 5 girls will make it to secondary school. Nearly half are married before the age of 18; 1 out of 7 marries before she is 15. Then she gets pregnant. The leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19 worldwide is not disease or accidents or violence but complications from pregnancy. Girls under 15 are up to five times as likely to die while having children than are women in their 20s.

The solution? An extra year of primary school boosts the girl’s eventual salary by 10% to 20%; Girls wo stay in school for seven or more years typically marry four years later and have fewer children than girls who drop out. Fewer dependants per worker allows for greater economic growth. Where girls and women earn income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families. They buy books, medicine, bed nets. For men that figure is more like 30% to 40%. Less than 2c per development dollar goes to girls… Roughly 9 out of 10 youth programs are aimed at boys. We have to start listening to girls, which much of the world is not culturally disposed to. Development experts say the solutions need to be holistic, providing access to safe spaces, schools and health clinics with programs especially designed for girls’ needs. A new initiative called Girl UP (girlup.org) aims to mobilize 100.000 American girls to raise money and awareness to fight poverty, sexual violence and child marriage. The 12-18 generation in the US seem to be ‘givers’.  Why shoukdn’t the European girls be that too? Let the word go out, by text, tweeter, Facebook. Organize a Girl UP rally, where your friends can learn what it takes to carry wood and a five liter jerrican of water on your head.  A 5 Euro gift can change the life of an Ethiopian girl of 10 who can escape marriage with your help. A young European generation helping the next generation of female leaders, for the next quiet revolutions.

Thanks to Nancy Gibbs

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