As women progress in developing nations, so do those countries' economies
New studies show that it's just 'good economics' to promote the welfare of girls.
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A few private foundations are prominent in promoting the well-being of girls and young women. The Nike Foundation, for example, has projects for empowering women in Liberia and Kenya. Its goal is to get girls on the international agenda and drive resources to them from rich countries. Investment in girls, the foundation holds, unleashes what it calls the "girl effect," that is, powerful social and economic change brought about when a girl participates in her society. It offers a compelling video making the case for investing in girls on the Web at girleffect.orgSkip to next paragraph
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Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation has a program for "elevating adolescent girls on the global agenda."
Ruth Levine, an analyst with the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., and one of the authors of "Girls Count," sees increasingly "positive rhetoric" regarding the role of women in development. Jordan's Queen Rania gave the matter attention at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland earlier this year. Former President Bill Clinton is raising the issue at his Global Initiative.
But, Ms. Levine says, discrimination again women is "ingrained in society" in many countries. "There is just a lot of discrimination and cultural and economic obstacles" to the advancement of women. Those obstacles, she says, include early marriage and a macho attitude of many men. One girl in 7 in developing countries marries before age 15, and nearly half of all girls are expected to marry by age 20. This is most common in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Her study points out that 1 person in 8 in the world is a girl or young woman age 10 to 24. The size of this group in developing nations will peak over the next 10 years. The study also lists many challenges for women.
"In many places girls and young women do not enjoy the basic rights of voting, cannot inherit land, are subject to female genital cutting, and do not have the right to stop unwanted sexual advances or gain justice," the study said. "Yet it is only through major and sustained improvements in the condition of girls that the world will reach its goals."
"Most important," it continues, "girls matter because they are human beings. Girls have equal rights to human dignity, self-determination, freedom from violence, good health, education, and participation in economic and political life."
And they are key to economic progress.