Help a Girl, Save the World

February 11, 2012

When I’m studying for a calculus test at 2 a.m. or fighting a losing battle with a computer I’m programming, attending college doesn’t seem like a blessing. I sometimes forget how lucky I am to have the resources and the opportunity to pursue a university degree.

Recently, I snapped out of my complacency slump when I visited the Girl Effect website. I became immersed in reports and studies on how powerful one girl in a developing country can be — as long as she is given the opportunities and resources she needs to obtain an education. This research proposes that the first priority for alleviating worldwide poverty should be to educate young women and girls, who currently make up 70 percent of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth.

If girls are educated and empowered, they can rock the world. Girls in poverty who stay in school longer and have access to secondary education reap a variety of benefits, both for themselves and for their communities. Girls with at least seven years of education tend to have approximately two fewer children and marry four years later than their peers. Their children tend to be healthier. These women earn 10 to 20 percent higher wages for each extra year they go to school, they are less likely to face domestic and sexual violence in their homes, and they are less likely to die in childbirth — the leading cause of death in young women worldwide.

As girls earn more while having fewer children, smaller families depend on higher levels of income, alleviating the domestic poverty levels and benefitting the community’s economy. As their education increases, so too does their children’s, creating a cycle of educated workers to advance the economy of the country. The community further benefits when girls earn more, as women invest 90 percent of their earnings into their families and communities, compared with men’s 30 percent. In short, nurturing girls on their educational journeys creates benefits that spread far and wide — to families, communities, and countries.

Despite the multitude of benefits from investing in them, adolescent girls receive less than 2 cents of each aid dollar sent to developing countries. The good news is that organizations like the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and the Girl Effect work to raise money, publish research reports, and spread the word about the power of adolescent girls.

Interested in helping or learning more? I recommend reading the Girls Count report, visiting the Girl Effect website, and reading this recent Women’s News Network article on the importance of education for poor women in Argentina.

As AAUW members, you know the value of an education. Take a moment today to be grateful for yours, and consider helping a girl who is miles away to receive one. You never know — she may grow up to change the world.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Caitlin Crane.

By:   |   February 11, 2012

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