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Why Investing in Women and Girls Makes Economic Sense
I woke up in India’s capital of Delhi and piled into a car for an hour’s drive down unpaved muddy roads, through crowded streets where stagnant sewage water filled the lanes between buildings and houses. This was the most recent trip of many I’ve taken as an advocate for the health and rights of girls and women in the developing world as a global ambassador for Population Services International (PSI).
We arrived in the town of Patna, in Bihar, and were greeted by a dozen or so women with extremely limited resources. Yet, they had joined together to get microloans to buy toilets for their homes and community.
Eight out of ten people in Bihar lack access to sanitation. Before having a private toilet, the women I spoke with, like so many others, had been shamed and verbally harassed and sexually assaulted when relieving themselves in nearby fields, to say nothing of the illnesses they and their children were exposed to. “It gives dignity and respect to girls,” said Anita Devi, one of the women I met.
A healthy, educated woman reinvests 90 percent of her income in her family and community compared to only 35 percent for a man. Each additional year of secondary school can increase a woman’s earnings by 10 to 20 percent, and that increase yields real profits for the countries they live in. When 10 percent more women in a country complete secondary education, the country’s annual per capita income grows by 3 percent.
Investing in smart solutions to improve the health and rights of women makes good sense from a health and economic standpoint.
I’ve seen it in Tanzania in the PSI community health worker Lucy, who works to educate other women on reproductive health products, services and information to reduce maternal mortality. I’ve seen it in South Sudan and Cameroon, when mothers pull their babies close to them under bed nets at night and sleep for the first time, no longer having to bat mosquitoes away to protect their children.
And yet many girls and women in the developing world won’t reach their potential because of health inequities and paltry levels of investment in women-focused services. Only two cents of every development dollar goes to support programs for girls. As a result, services they need, such as family planning and screening for cervical cancer or gender-based violence, are limited in poor countries, and investment levels do not come close to meeting demand.
No business would sacrifice its best asset and neither should we. Investing in women and girls makes sense. When the world’s mothers, sisters and daughters can reach their true potential, we all do.
Every girl has a vision for her future and the world she lives in. In honor of International Day of theGirl, ONE Girls and Women is launching 31 girls in 31 days to share these hopes and dreams. Check ONE Girls and Women for #31hopes from girls, for girls around the world.
Be The Change
There’s no doubt that the world has made a lot of progress in the last several years, but for girls and women, there’s still work to do. Check out our great partners below who are doing important work on this issue.
of the world's population lacks access to toilets
of people living with HIV globally are women
women die annually due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth
See who's making a difference
PSI is a global health organization dedicated to improving the health of people in the developing world by focusing on...
The Life You Can Save is a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves...
Women Deliver is a global advocacy organization bringing together voices from around the world to call for action to improve...
#ONEderWoman of the Week: Itoro Eze-Anaba
Itoro Eze-Anaba, Founder of the Mirabel Centre, is on a mission to stop sexual violence in Nigeria. The only support centre for rape and sexual assault victims in Lagos, Nigeria, Mirabel is a major step forward for the city.
The Mirabel Centre offers counseling, legal advice, and necessary medical treatment for rape victims, who tend to be between the ages of 11-15, as well as next steps for the victims and their families. Itoro founded the centre when working on domestic violence issues as a lawyer. While campaigning for a bill she drafted, she discovered how little support rape survivors were getting in Nigeria. It took 10 years of searching for funds, but in 2013 the Mirabel Centre was finally opened. Since opening, the centre has provided 845 clients with psychological, emotional, medical, and legal support.
Alongside the centre, Itoro is working closely with the Nigerian government on sexual assault issues, and has even opened a sex offender registry so that employers can screen job applicants. In the future Itoro hopes to gain more funding for her work, and for more rape cases to be taken to court so that victims can get the justice they deserve through proper due process. Check out this interview with Itoro about the Mirabel Centre and how she got involved with support for sexual assault victims.
Nominate Your Own #ONEderWoman
My first observation was about the girls themselves. They are simply incredible. From the first moment I met them, they were warm and welcoming, curious and thoughtful, humorous and engaging. As a group they seem to glow, and as individuals they are humble and friendly, each possessing an agile intellect.
The following two testimonials were taken in December 2014 from students who were graduating from Kakenya Center for Excellence that month. We are pleased to report that both girls are now in their second year of high school and doing well!
What it Means to be a Girl in My Village… Look at me, I say look at me, You may think I went to school, But I didn’t, the reason is because I am a girl. This days both boys and girls are the big people in the society, All because of education is a…
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