A long time interested in women's issues especially when it comes to education, I would always hear from non-profit organizations and charities working in the developing world that an investment in women usually brings better results in sustaining development. Let me illustrate. A woman in the developing world has usually a family to take care of. If this woman happens to gain an income, she invests 90 percent of it back into her family compare to a man who would only invest between 30 to 40 percent. 1
Also, stats prove that education in girls increase their potential wages by 10 to 20 percent (with one extra year in primary school) and 15 to 25 percent (with one extra year in secondary school). 2
I didn't know the details in these figures but having been in the midst of non-profit organizations and charities (either by working or volunteering for them), I was aware of this fact.
However I was recently reminded by this fact through my renewed interest in this issue (although never gone but a little faded over the past 5 years or so) by my involvement with CU-WISE. I was also listening to one of my favourite radio programs on Radio-Canada called Christiane Charette en direct which usually talks about news of the day ( both quirky and serious), when a topic that was discussed caught immediately my attention: The Girl Effect. I have done a bit of research and was able to trace this phenomenon to a website which I would recommend you to visit: www.girleffect.org. Founded by the Nike Foundation in partnership with the Novo Foundation, United Nations Foundation, and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls (to name a few), this movement is designed to consolidate all efforts towards empowering women in order to bring sustaining development in third world countries.
But what I found most interesting was the link made by this organization. Girls in the developing world especially when they reach adolescence have two possibilities. One, they generally get married, do not get any education, get pregnant and have kids very early on and are extremely vulnerable to HIV (either by their husband, or rape if we are dealing with a warring state). Now if we change the situation and offer them the means to get an education, then the whole picture is completely different. Getting an education furthers the possibility to get an income which the families will benefit from. Furthermore, as bringer of income, the status of these women are then better respected which allows them to influence decisions affecting women; this in turn increases and encourages a better living environment for other women and girls, including better opportunities for them to get educated. This contributes to thriving communities, more money for sanitation and as more educated women have families, they are better equipped to prevent the spreading of HIV/AIDS. The end result: healthier, peaceful, stable and economically thriving communities.
And all of this because an investment was made on girls and women. What fascinated me was that I was aware of all of the potential results in investing in girls and women. However, I always failed to make this easy and logic connection.
Now imagine if this simple solution was applied to the following stats:
• Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
(Cynthia B. Lloyd, ed., Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries [Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2005].)
• Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
(Human Rights Watch, “Promises Broken: An Assessment of Children’s Rights on the 10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/crp/promises/education.html [December 1999].)
Below you will find all of the partners part of this Coalition:
Nike Foundation: www.nikefoundation.org
Novo Foundation: www.novofoundation.org
United Nations Foundation: www.unfoundation.org/global-issues/women-and-population/investing-adolescent-girls.html
Coalition for Adolescent Girls: www.coalitionforadolescentgirls.org
International Center for Research on Women: www.icrw.org
Population Council: www.popcouncil.org
CARE & CARE Canada: www.care.org & www.care.ca
White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood: www.whiteribbonalliance.org
Center for Global Development: www.cgdev.org
Plan: www.plan-uk.org/becauseiamagirl & www.becauseiamagirl.ca
Global Business Coalition: www.gbcimpact.org
These groups offer many ways to get involved and I for one will try to see how I can support this wonderful initiation.
1 Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.
2 George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].