The Girl Effect: Helping to Change the Lives of Adolescent Girls
“If there is a time to act in the fight against poverty, it’s when a girl stands at the crossroads of adolescence – yet today less than half a cent of every dollar spent on international assistance programs is invested directly in girls,” said Maria Eitel, president of the Nike Foundation. (Source: The Nike Foundation Press Release). The Girl Effect is a movement that is supported by the Nike Foundation and NoVo Foundation who are helping to change the situation for the 250 million adolescent girls worldwide.
According to Julie Addicott, the Communications Specialist for the Nike Foundation; “It became clear that adolescent girls are the most powerful force for global change – they have the unique potential to stop intergenerational poverty before it begins.” Yet, surprisingly little research has been conducted to understand how investments in girls impact economic growth and the health and well-being of communities (Source: www. girleffect.org). Surprising in that one person in eight is a girl or young woman age 10-24. Young people are the fastest growing segment of the population in developing countries, and their size will peak in the next 10 years (Source: www.girleffect.org).
Unfortunately, It is difficult to conceive that these girls and women do not even have basic rights: The right to vote, unable to inherit land, victims to female genital cutting, and do not have the right to stop unwanted sexual advances or gain justice for these crimes against them! While the world is working to fight poverty and basic human rights – important causes by all means, unfortunately, girls remain nearly invisible to the powers that be. A situation the Girl Effect is trying to bring to light.
The Ripple Effect
Girls and young women are generally less educated, less healthy, and less free than their male peers.
Ensuring that girls’ are valued and given opportunities to help improve their lives is fundamental. By supporting programs that help educate and provide life skills to young girls, you are helping to change not just one life, but their future children’s lives. Look at some of the statistics found on the Girl Effect Website:
- Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
- Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70 percent are girls.
- 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.
- Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
- When a girl in a 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.
- 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.
The Cycle of Poverty
The cycle is easy to see: little or no education for girls = families see little earning potential of girls = forced to marry at a very young age = vulnerable to HIV, sexual violence, and physical exploitation.
The Girl Effect site has many opportunities to help, from spreading the word to supporting programs such as the BRAC program that will provide 500 girls in Tanzania with 20 safe spaces, education and micro loans to help lead confident, self-reliant, dignified lives. For only $30, a girl can gain life skills training and financial education. Imagine that you have the ability to change a girl’s life for only $30. Pretty powerful! Please check out the video and support programs at www.girleffect.org. Also, check out their Facebook page as they have daily updates, news about programs they are supporting, and showcasing girl champions who are supporting the Girl Effect.
Life Changing Event
This situation is one I hold close to my heart. Years ago while living in Japan, I co- founded an NGO Cycle Against Poverty, with a friend who had a dream to bring to light the cycle of poverty in Vietnam. We ended up getting a wonderful group of people together and worked hard to raise awareness of the situation and money to support UNICEF programs. One of the ways we did this was by cycling across Vietnam, working with UNICEF and the Vietnamese Women’s Group. The event was life-changing for me and I realized the power of just a small group of people who wanted to help improve women and children’s’ lives.Please don’t underestimate the power that you have to make change – as Mom It Forward Founder Jyl Johnson Pattee says: one mom at a time.
How are you using your power to help make a change in the world? What actions are you taking to help improve the lives of women and children?
Melissa Northway is a mom, writer of children’s picture books, and has written a storybook app and book called Penelope the Purple Pirate. Her tomboy was the inspiration to write about a girl who likes to have adventures with her friends, and at the same time teach little ones the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. Penelope the Purple Pirate was chosen as a Top 10 Must-Have eBook by lilsugar of Popsugar.com and as a Top 10 Educational iPad app by Digital Storytime. Penelope is available at the iTunes app store and on Amazon. You can read more about Penelope and Melissa at: www.melissanorthway.com.