The Importance of Girls in a New War to end Poverty – #gov20

Girls are the Answer

Girls are the Answer

I often start my speeches, in every corner of the globe, with a video from The Girl Effect.  My wife and two daughters know exactly why I care so much about the topic.  And my daughter, now 13, has given me the best gift I could have asked for.

She has a project at school that will be a year long.  She can tackle any subject.  It needs to be community focused, but little guidance after that.  She came to Mom asking if she could focus on something like “The Girl Effect”.  When Mom told me, I brimmed with pride.

Parents everywhere wonder if they are doing the right thing, if they are raising kids to be active parts of their world, whether they introduced technology too soon, whether they restricted access to hard, whether they taught enough.  Whether they developed strong and yet empathetic citizens.  And wondering when they would find out.  For us, it is apparently at 13.

Our conversations so far have been around the economic impact of addressing young girls as a target would have.  And I am proud that her focus is dual – US and Global.  She understands the issues are different, but the effects are profound.  That by fixing the irrational problems surrounding girls in lesser developed countries, the out comes are stunning.  According to USAID, “by empowering women farmers with the same access to land, new technologies, and capital as men, we can increase crop yields by as much as 30 percent and feed an additional 150 million people”.   And according to the Girl Effect,  “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.”  And, “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.”

And while she will have one eye on the globe, she will have her feet firmly planted in the US.  That girls in this country suffer from similarly stifling effects of poverty.  That unlocking a solution for them in cities around this proud nation has a disproportionate effect on the health and wealth of all of us.  That by securing strength among girls in Chicago, Seattle, Milwaukee, New York and elsewhere will have a positive and unstoppable effect on girls in rural america and onward.  And that our strength here will be multiplied to her sisters overseas, tightening the circle and creating a tide to rise all boats.

But my favorite part of my daughter’s journey is the understanding that, in the West, women have only recently become enfranchised and that, now, more than ever, they have a responsibility to solidify the ladder they used to climb up to enable the girl effect worldwide.  So, while my daughter is privileged, she will start the cycle in our city, in her school.  At 13, she will shoulder a very tiny fraction of the load carried by her counterparts overseas.  She will use the gifts she has been given, to charm the socks off of everyone around her, to demand that we not simply state that we care about our girls, but that we will FIGHT to enable them across the globe.

Thank you Madison.

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