Were you once a young teenage girl, or do you have a daughter or a niece? What was life like for you then? What was (or is) life like for your daughter or niece?
My 14-year-old daughter went to her homecoming dance this weekend.
She wore a beautiful dress that I paid for and went to a friend’s 5000 square foot mini-mansion to get dressed and take pictures before the dance.
She came home to the safety and comfort of her own bed, waking to the predictable routine of a typical American teenage girl — school, hanging out with friends, after-school activities, homework, a healthy meal, and a warm bed.
Because she was born in the U.S. to educated, caring parents, my daughter has everything she needs to succeed in life. Her future is bright.
But here’s something you absolutely must know about millions of girls in the world . . .
There are more than 600 million girls in the developing world whose futures do not look so bright. In fact, they look quite bleak. Approximately a quarter of the girls in developing countries are not in school.
When many of these girls reach adolescence, often by the age of 12 or 13, they are married off, with many pregnant by age 15. Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
If they survive childbirth, these young girls must drop out of school to care for their family, often having to sell their bodies to make money — putting them at risk for contracting and spreading HIV.
There are no homecoming dances. No fancy dresses. No childhood. No security for the future for these girls. They and their families are stuck in a cycle of poverty, illness, and illiteracy.
Although more than a quarter of the population in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa are girls and young women ages 10-24, little research has been done to show how investing in these girls could positively impact the economic growth, health, and well-being of their communities.
However, there is research that suggests we should be paying attention to these girls. Look at these facts:
- 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.
- 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.
- Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers.
- 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.
(Courtesy of www.thegirleffect.org.)
There is a movement at hand that is working to mobilize information, communication, and support for these 660 million girls. It’s called The Girl Effect.
According to The Girl Effect . . .
“Adolescent girls are capable of raising the standard of living in the developing world. Girls are the most likely agents of change, but they are often invisible to their societies and to our media.”
The Girl Effect has started a movement of Girl Champions, individuals and organizations who see the tremendous impact these millions of young girls can have on creating a better life for themselves and their communities — if we can give them a leg up.
Watch this very short video about these girls and The Girl Effect:
If you could impact the life of just one of these girls, imagine the ripple effect it could have on her family, her community, and other girls she knows. Supporting one of these girls through a small donation could send her to school, help her fight a legal case, or give her a micro loan.
“When girls have safe places to meet, education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills, they can thrive. And if they thrive, everyone around them thrives, too.” ~The Girl Effect
Either you have been a young girl or you know one. More than likely, you have never encountered this kind of poverty and deprivation. But you can do something about it for the millions of young women and girls who need a chance for a better life.
Here’s what you can do:
- Learn more about these girls who are at a crossroads in their lives.
- Mobilize and connect by sharing information about The Girl Effect with others.
- Give a small amount of money to help change the course of a girl’s life.
- Spread the word about The Girl Effect on your own blog or site if you have one.
Now that you know what you must know about millions of girls, will you do one small thing?