People assume girls are being reached by charities. They’re not. The reality is that children’s programmes focus on 0-5 year-olds, youth programmes tend to focus on males and older groups, and women’s programmes don’t typically capture adolescent girls. Programmes that do reach girls rarely address the ones most at risk. To break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, programmes must be designed for, and measure the impact on, girls.
Uganda has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa. 50% of girls are married before they reach 18. When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. An extra year of primary school education boosts girls’s eventual wagers by 10-20%. An extra year of secondary school adds 15-25%.
Access to tap water might be the most important thing that can keep girls in school in developing countries. Girls tend to stop attending school – or drop out altogether – because there was no safe running water for them to wash with when they were menstruating.
Yeah, people forget about the little detail of menstruation when thinking on poverty. Did you ever stop to think about that? How hard can it be for a girl’s mental and physical health to menstruate without any money for hygiene pads or running water?
Menstruating is still seen as shameful on many societies so girls lack the right type of support to stay on school just when they become the most vulnerable. The lack of clean water and girls’-only toilets makes attendance during menstruation extremely difficult. There are very few initiatives targeted at improving girls’ education, health and access to safe water.
Girls, who are often relied on for chores such as fetching water and collecting firewood, are disproportionately affected by the problem. Travelling to and from the nearest water source has a significant impact on their wellbeing and development.
Hours of travel for water are hours that they can’t spend in a classroom acquiring the skills and knowledge that are vital for the development of poor economies. Fetching water also exposes girls and women to the dangers of harassment and violence on the streets, not to mention the effect on girls’ health from carrying up to 45 pounds of water on their heads for as much as six hours a day.
Invest in access to clean water and the improvements are almost immediate: More girls attend school, learn technical skills and reproductive planning, stay safe and you get reduced health costs.
And of course, when a girl is financially literate, and is able to earn an income and save, she can improve her household’s ability to withstand economic changes and invest in her future children’s schooling and health. Increased female control of income also leads to far greater returns for human capital than comparable income under male control. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, compared with only 30-40% for men. Research in Brazil showed that the likelihood of a child’s survival was 20 per cent higher when the mother controlled household income; and in Kenya, income in mothers’ hands was found to increase children’s height by 17 per cent.
If she is economically better off, a girl will contribute to higher GDP growth, tax revenue, improved health and civic participation. For example, if young Nigerian women had the same employment rate as young men, the country would add $13.9bn to the economy annually.
To successfully economically empower girls we need to prepare them for a safe and productive livelihood. We need to equip them first with education, skills, mentors and support, so they will be ready to receive access to financial services and physical assets such as land, savings schemes and tools. Girls must be given an understanding of their economic rights.
So… that’s the two things I will suggest: Invest on water access and invest on girls’s educations. Remember, we are talking about improving the future of half the countries’s citizens.
Here are some programs that seek to help in that regard.
Some of the ones worth noting:
- $10 – Provide the supplies needed for 1 girl to make a reusable menstrual pad and receive a workshop manual to share with her friends upon completion
- $10 – Provides a month of safe transportation to school for one girl
- $30 – provides 3 washable feminine hygiene kits girls can depend on for up to 3 years
- $35 – purchases 8 meters of cotton fabric for local women to sew kits for more girls
Information taken from http://www.girleffect.org/