Today is the International Day of the Girl! As I browse through forums, articles, and videos from people around the world that are passionate about the situation of girls, I feel it is both sobering and exciting.
Sobering to think of the magnitude of the challenges these girls are facing—illiteracy, school dropout, forced marriage, HIV and gender-based violence continue to dramatically affect girls’ lives around the world. By 2015, females will make up 64% of the world’s (adult) population who cannot read (Education for All Global Monitoring Report in 2011). On the other hand, an extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent and an extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].) There are solutions, but things are not going to change on their own. We cannot be passive about this. We have to invest in girls and women.
I read an article about The Girl Effect and they ask, “How do you start with a girl and end up with a better world?” This is where the excitement comes in. I am excited that people are asking these types of questions. I am excited to see proof of the difference education can make in a girl’s life. I am excited to have a part in empowering more girls like Kethia, who Austin shared about yesterday, to have access to life-changing education. I am excited when I think of our time in Haiti and the women and girls we met there.
I met women like Rolande, who had received a micro-loan that enabled her to start and grow her small business. She joyfully served us dinner from her little restaurant by the ocean. But not only did she have a business, she had a means to send her little girl to school.
I met women like Marie, who had overcome the loss of her husband, was raising 4 boys on her own, and was living a vibrant life despite being HIV positive. Since receiving help and training from World Concern four years ago, she has joined World Cocnern to help train others who are HIV positive as well.
These two women are an inspiring example of resilience and courage. Through their stories, we see hope. When given access to the resources they needed, they did not hesitate to make the most of it and they did not hesitate to invest back into those around them. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per- cent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)
The sobering and exciting paradox is what can drive us to action. I think about these women, that they were once girls, and how World Concern is working to provide opportunity and resources to girls and women. We can look at young girls and see future Rolande’s and Marie’s—women who have overcome challenges and stepped beyond their current norms in the developing world. I am eager we have the opportunity to serve in Haiti, invest in girls, and continue to share their stories of hope with you.