I recently read Khaled Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, which tells the story of two women facing atrocious hardships throughout their lives in Afghanistan. As a first time father to an adorable one year old girl, I’ve been thinking a lot about the particular struggles and gender biases that will face my daughter in her lifetime. But when I took the time to really think about the plight of women in developing countries, I was floored.
Did you know that girls make up 70% of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, and that approximately 25% of all girls in developing countries are not in school?
Staying in school has so many benefits, and it also serves to simply preserve childhood. 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. She also dramatically increases her chances at avoiding an infectious disease, and her future prospects are much, much brighter. Just an extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10-20%, and an extra year of secondary school raises wages 15-25%.
The Nike Foundation is leading a campaign called The Girl Effect, which is raising money for schooling and microloans for adolescent girls. They believe more successful girls will raise the standard of living in the developing world by lifting the next generation out of poverty. As we all know, good mothers raise good children, but that cannot happen if 25-50% of women in developing countries having children before the age of 18. As the stewards of the next generation, girls are the most likely agents of change. But they are often invisible to their societies, and they have been largely invisible to us.
Watch these excellent videos from The Girl Effect, and you will see what needs to be done.
*All stats taken from the Girl Effect Fact Sheet.