Girl Effect: Helping Poor Girls Makes Economic Sense

BY Hari Sreenivasan  September 22, 2011 at 5:00 PM EST

Infographic and Poster from Girl Effect report

Each teenage mother in India can lose up to $100,000 in potential income over her lifetime. Multiply that by the number of teenage mothers in India and you have a total of $383 billion, which happens to equal the total amount of money spent on global development in 2009.

There are some very sobering stories behind these numbers, given that there are more than 600 million girls in developing countries who are not able to fully function in society. Girl Effect is an initiative of the Nike Foundation, that focuses on intercepting girls in poverty at a crucial inflection and development point — age 12 — and providing them with the resources to break the cycle of poverty and lift the standards of living of their entire families.

Nike Foundation President Maria Eitel stopped by the PBS NewsHour studios for a chat on the project.

The economic statistics come from a new working paper by the World Bank titled Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls. The study looks at school dropout, pregnancy and unemployment data from 14 countries and paints a picture that aid groups hope will make policymakers and global leaders pay attention to the links between investing in girls and increasing national incomes.

If you have three minutes, watch this video for perspective on the numbers:


What got my attention during our conversation and from the paper is that maternal causes are the number one killer of girls age 15-19 in developing countries. It reminded me of a conversation we had with photographer Stephanie Sinclair, who has made it part of her life’s work to chronicle child marriages. It also reminded me of the maternal health story from Peru by my colleague Ray Suarez and his story from Chicago about Girl Up, a U.N. campaign to empower teen girls.

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