The Girl Effect refers to the powerful changes brought about when girls are allowed to participate in the economic life of developing countries. With access to education and economic opportunity, the 600 million adolescent girls in these countries have the capacity to change the world, reinvesting their income and knowledge back into their families and communities.
But despite their proven potential, girls are more likely to be uneducated, child brides, and exposed to HIV/AIDs. Less than two cents of every international development dollar is directed toward females. The cost of excluding women is devastating, not only to individuals but to entire societies.
In this featured clip, meet two young women whose lives are heading in very different directions.
Emily Brew, Creative Director at the Nike Foundation, brings nearly fifteen years of Nike, Inc. experience to her role overseeing the creative and brand direction of the Nike Foundation. Emily led the development of The Girl Effect, and in addition to her marketing and communications expertise, holds graduate degrees in human rights and women's studies.
Donate to The Girl Effect: http://www.globalgiving.org/girleffect.html
BRAC in Bangladesh: http://www.brac.net/
The Instituto Promundo in India: http://www.promundo.org.br/332?locale=en_US
Binti Pamoja in Kenya: http://www.bintipamoja.org/about/index.htm
Pro Mujer, a women's development and microfinance organization that offers credit, access to saving accounts, healthcare and training to poor women entrepreneurs in Latin America: https://promujer.org/
Website of The Global Fund for Women, an organization which promotes women's economic security, health, education and leadership: http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/cms/
Little research has been done to understand how investments in girls impact economic growth and the health and well-being of communities. This lack of data reveals how pervasively girls have been overlooked. For millions of girls across the developing world, there are no systems to record their birth, their citizenship, or even their identity. However, the existing research suggests their impact can reach much further than expected.
- 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. (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
- An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (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].)
- Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
- 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. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)
- Today, more than 600 million girls live in the developing world. (Population Reference Bureau, DataFinder database, http://www.prb.org/datafinder.aspx [accessed December 20, 2007].)
- More than one-quarter of the population in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa are girls and young women ages 10 to 24. (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision,” http://esa.un.org/unpp, and “World Urbanization Prospects: The 2005 Revision,” www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WUP2005/2005WUP_DataTables1.pdf.)
- The total global population of girls ages 10 to 24 — already the largest in history — is expected to peak in the next decade. (Ruth Levine et al., Girls Count: A Global Investment & Action Agenda [Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development, 2008].)
- 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,” www.hrw.org/campaigns/crp/promises/education.html [December 1999].)
CHILD MARRIAGE AND EARLY CHILDBIRTH:
- One girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15. (Population Council, “Transitions to Adulthood: Child Marriage/Married Adolescents,” www.popcouncil.org/ta/mar.html [updated May 13, 2008].)
- 38 percent marry before age 18. (Cynthia B. Lloyd, ed., Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries [Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2005].)
- One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year. (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 2005, www.unfpa.org/swp/2005.)
- In Nicaragua, 45 percent of girls with no schooling are married before age 18 versus only 16 percent of their educated counterparts. In Mozambique, the figures are 60 percent versus 10; in Senegal, 41 percent versus 6. (International Center for Research on Women, Too Young to Wed: Education & Action Toward Ending Child Marriage, www.icrw.org/docs/2006_cmtoolkit/cm_all.pdf .)
- 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. (International Center for Research on Women, Development Initiative on Supporting Healthy Adolescents , analysis of quantitative baseline survey data collected in select sites in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, India [survey conducted in 2004].)
- 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. (United Nations Children’s Fund, Equality, Development and Peace, www.unicef.org/publications/files/pub_equality_en.pdf [New York: UNICEF, 2000], 19.)
- 75 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds living with HIV in Africa are female, up from 62 percent in 2001. (Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Keeping the Promise: An Agenda for Action on Women and AIDS, http://data.unaids.org/pub/Booklet/2006/20060530_FS_Keeping_Promise_en.pdf[2006a].)
Interview with Emily Brew
By Naveen Sultan for telegraph21
t21: What is The Girl Effect and what is the direct impact of it?
EB: The girl effect is the powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate. The girl effect is also an idea, a concept and a message. That’s what the video and the website and the social media are all about. Those are all tools for any girl champion to use, from governments to NGOs to high school kids, to help explain the potential of girls and give people ways to contribute.
t21: It was just the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day on March 8th and many news organizations reported that both the lack of education and global warming are two of the major issues that women are facing all over the world. What is the connection?
EB: Global warming disproportionately affects the world’s poorest people, as natural resources change or diminish. The results get worse as populations grow – and, as President Clinton has said, “the only thing that has been done that seems to find warm embrace across all religious space and all regions of the world that slows population growth is to put every single girl in the world in school and give every young woman adequate and equal access to the labor markets of the world”.
But global warming affects girls even before they become responsible for the next generation. A girl today is the economic backbone of her families: she bears the chore burden, she’s the healthcare system, the insurance policy. Global warming increases her chores – water scarcity means she will need to walk further to collect water; it also means tougher conditions in agriculture, where 70% of the workforce is female.
Increased chores also mean less time for education, with huge consequences not only for her: when girls’ lives are limited, everyone loses and the cost of excluding a girl doesn’t just impact her; it impacts all of us.
An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. The immediate benefits of education during adolescence are greater safety, enhanced social status, greater gender quality, improved reproductive health and better opportunities for self actualization and empowerment. This has cascading benefits over her lifetime and that of her children, family, and community.
t21: Can you name some of the organizations supporting The Girl Effect and tell me what they're doing?
EB: The idea of the girl effect has been picked up by girl champions around the world. The video has been shown in conferences, corporate board rooms, school gyms. People are digitally engaging with it from every continent on the planet. But it’s on the ground where the girl effect is actually coming to life, as innovative programs seek to unleash the potential of the 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world.
For example, BRAC in Bangladesh delivers a microfinance program customized for girls that has already provided access to small loans, safe spaces, life skills and livelihoods training to up to 43,000 rural adolescent girls in Bangladesh. After three years, those girls have started their own businesses, support their families' businesses, and pay their own school fees, as well as their brothers’. Girls who participated in this program were no longer seen as an extra mouth to feed, but as a critical contributor to the household economy. In turn, this has provided a strong incentive to delay marriage and childbirth. Participating girls are more confident and mobile within their communities.
At the other end of the spectrum, the World Bank is spearheading a program in Liberia with Africa’s first elected woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. This initiative targets girls who are living in urban poverty – a context that’s extremely dangerous to adolescent girls anywhere, but even more so in Liberia, where civil war left a legacy of sexual violence and rape. With the government’s support, the program will link skills training for 2,500 girls to current labor demand. When girls have the opportunity to enter the job market or start their own businesses, their vulnerability dramatically decreases – and the girl effect has a chance.
To changes girls’ lives, communities need to get involved as well. Fundación Paraguaya in Paraguay does this in an innovative way: it’s is an agro-forestry school in a biosphere reserve, where girls learn to become agricultural professionals via a hands-on, working farm. The school’s farm creates revenues that cover the school’s expenses, including rent for the community land that it occupies. In the future, the girls’ families will benefit from their skills and income. But in the present, the community is already reaping the benefit of educating its girls.
t21: Can you explain the key reasons why the focus of this movement is on girls and not all children?
EB: We’re often asked: What about boys? And the answer is: The girl effect IS about boys – and sons and daughters and mothers and fathers. The data shows that girls will invest their future income into their families as twice the rate of boys. So the focus is actually very broad: the girl effect is about breaking the cycle of poverty and building a sustainable global economy.
One of the key elements is a focus on girl-specific approaches. Adolescent girls face a unique set of circumstances that, when unaddressed, remove girls from the flow of resources and benefits that go into youth or women focused programs. Girls need to be sought in order to be found.
Boys and men have a critical role in unleashing girls’ ripple effect, as they often control the environment for girls. That’s why our focus on girls includes programs that directly address the gender attitudes and resulting behaviors of boys and men. For example, in India, the Instituto Promundo has developed training tools and workshops directed at the gender attitudes held by boys and men while the Family Violence Prevention Fund uses cricket to transform harmful gender norms.
t21: Why doesn't The Girl Effect work in the U.S.?
EB: In a sense, it does: while the girl effect comes to life in the developing world, word of its power has been traveling digitally around the US and beyond. The girl effect Facebook page has over 130,000 fans, and is growing every day. Just on Facebook alone, we see folks who are holding fundraisers, forming clubs and raising awareness of the girl effect on their own – and getting connected to others doing the same thing.
The Foundation supports the spread of that message globally. But in our belief that girls presents a powerful means of ending dire poverty, we focus our own on-the-ground investments on countries that present the greatest need yet have the least investment occurring, such as Bangladesh, Liberia, Kenya, Ethiopia and others.
t21: Out of all the young women you've encountered while working on this, which story touched you the most and why?
EB: There are two, both taking place in Kibera, the largest slum area in Nairobi, Kenya. Kibera is the size of Central Park, and houses a million people. The population is young, orphaned in reality by HIV/AIDS or in effect by immigration.
In Kibera, I met a 19-year-old mother named Shikola. She is an orphan; her boyfriend had been killed in the post-election violence. She looks after her infant son, and the infant of a cousin. She lives next to a shabeen, a bar, with only a curtain separating her from the dangerous alley outside. The customers of the bar are her income, a transaction witnessed by the children. All of their futures are pretty bleak.
Also in Kibera, I met Stephanie. She was raped at 17 years old by a neighbor, and became pregnant. But rather than drop out of school following the birth of her son, she returned, completed her education, and teaches other girls how to stay safe in that forbidding environment.
The difference was Binti Pamoja, a non-profit that operates out of the heart of Kibera. A girl-only safe space that’s run by other girls, Binti provides a haven of security, education and skills training. In both cases, it didn’t take much for a girl to fall off her life path at a critical moment – but it also didn’t take much for her to regain her footing. That’s what touches me the most.
t21: Have any reactions/feedback to The Girl Effect surprised you?
EB: The boys for the girl effect are most surprising. I met a group of African youth activists last year, and the boys were switched on to this issue in a way that the powers-that-be can’t seem to get. These guys had naturally come to the idea of the girl effect, because they see it in their own lives. They see what happens to their mothers, aunts and sisters, and the contribution girls and women make in the lives of families and communities. While the supply of people who don’t believe in girls isn’t drying up any time soon, it gave me tremendous hope to see the energy and certainty in these kids’ convictions.
t21: How much money have you raised through donations and other organizations?
EB: Over the six-year life of the Nike Foundation, we’ve committed more than $100 million to adolescent girls, through over 60 grantees in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But money is only part of the solution of unleashing the girl effect. Awareness, changing policies, demanding change – all of these actions are part of challenging the systems worldwide that don’t support girls.
t21: Out of the 12 factors that you highlight as the fundamentals of creating a better future for girls, are there a few that are most important, or top the list?
EB: Start at age 12. Addressing girls’ unique needs at age 17 or 19 is too late. When a girl in poverty reaches puberty, her day turns to fetching water and wood rather than learning to read and write. She takes care of family members rather than herself. But: if she has assets – a social network, skills, knowledge, self-esteem, personal security – before that critical turning point, she has a much greater chance of staying on course.
t21: What is the reason behind the teaser video's stylistic choice (words instead of pictures)?
EB: We went that direction because it makes the viewer the starting point: each person draws upon their experience or imagination to fill in the visual blank. Each viewer makes their own personal connection to its message, and it becomes relevant.
t21: What has working on this project meant to you personally?
EB: It’s amazing to watch talented creative people get in touch with the idea of the girl effect. It just lights a fire of inspiration and possibility that is marvelous to watch. Usually, it leads to great work that helps the world understand the potential of girls. And understanding is the first step toward seeing the girl effect take hold and change the world. That’s why I have the best job in the world.
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: Addressing girls’ unique needs at age 17 or 19 is too late.- Learn why in our intv w/ Creative Dir. of The Girl Effect http://bit.ly/bBwNLB
communitycinema: Life and Debt | telegraph21 http://post.ly/TWlS
josanphoto: check out this great video http://www.telegraph21.com/video/the-girl-effect about what happens when you give a girl a cow