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The 12-year-old girl who changed the world

The most recent Time magazine focuses on the ongoing revolution in Egypt and has some amazing coverage about the events unfolding in Cairo. But the most interesting article for me is on the last page.

Nancy Gibbs describes another form of revolution – one with the potential to have a much larger impact than what’s happening in Egypt. It’s called the Girl Effect. The Girl Effect is the idea that we can change the world by improving conditions for young girls living in poverty.

In much of  Africa, fewer than 20% of girls make it to secondary school. One of every seven girls living in developing countries are married before age 15, almost 50% by the time they are 18. These girls get pregnant and then . . . many of them die.

The leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19 worldwide is not accident or violence or disease; it’s because of complications from pregnancy.  Their babies are likely to die as well. Those that survive are still at risk for physical and sexual abuse. 75% of all 15-24 year-olds living with HIV in Africa are girls.

By providing education and safe places, things look different. Educated girls marry four years later. In Mozambique, for example, 60 percent of girls without an education marry before age 18 versus 10% of their educated counterparts. Education also means they have fewer children and earn up to 25% more.

The cool thing about the extra money earned by females? They reinvest 90% of their income into their families vs. only 30% for males.

So what?

There are things we can do. GirlUp and GirlEffect provide information and ways for kids in the US to help raise money that is funneled towards youth programs around the world, programs that specifically target girls. (Find additional info at the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.) One of the ways that kids can help is by using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and texting to connect people with information.

GirlUp director Elizabeth Gore says

This generation of 12-to-18-year-olds are all givers. They gave after Katrina. They gave after the tsunami and Haiti. More than any earlier generation, they feel they know girls around the world.

As little as five dollars can make a difference. Hygiene products in Malawi or school supplies for girls in Ethiopia. Medicine at a health clinic in Guatemala. Education efforts in Liberia.

So . . . looking for a great community service project? An engaging way to teach world geography? A strategy to use in your current events class? Head over to GirlUp.

The life your kids touch may be the twelve year-old girl who changes the world.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the post, Glenn. And for the specific ways to make a difference and contribute. Maybe you’ve heard of a recently-released book from NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn? It’s called Half the Sky and it argues that helping women — both young and old — would in turn positively impact everyone. Here’s a link to description on Amazon:

    I still need to read it, but it looks extremely interesting.

    February 8, 2011

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