This morning on Twitter, Idocente pointed me to The Girl Effect. WOW! As some of you know, I have been a champion of the GiGis (Girl Geeks in service of the World Cafe community) and have long been a (prejudiced) champion of females in changing the world. So it is no surprise I had a positive response to this site. Take a look at the video.
Over breakfast today in Bonn, where I’m doing some work this week, my friend Ulf and I were talking about where we have seen positive change take place. (Check out his cool work with Science-Connects.) We shared stories about how things seem to work better from the ground up. Where people with passion and ownship make things happen, building on assets and in spite of barriers. Girls and women are certainly catalysts for this in many parts of the world. Take a look at this data from The Girl Effect fact sheet (pdf).
- When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
- An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. 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].)
- Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science
and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
- When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.)
Since I was in Israel and Palestine last month, I have been struggling on how to write about my experience in a way that is not about judgement, but about reflecting what I saw. The tyranny of person over person is heartbreaking, regardless of the reasons and justifications we create. But from what I saw and learned about, women and children are victims as Israel and Palestine continue without a solution for sustainable peace. The statistics around maternal and child health paint a compelling picture that war, occupation, and the patterns that trigger them are bad for women and children. High levels of maternal depression correlate with poor child nutrition. Raising rates of stunting in children from persistent malnourishment (low nutrition and poor nutrition) are staggering. Cultural challenges that resist healthy patterns of breast feeding and trigger increased poor child health and adult obesity and heart disease in Palestinians.
Where is the hope for something better? For basic human rights of food, shelter, clothing, clean food and water and yes, even peace?
It is with the women.
The women of Palestine and Israel, both, who build bridges across the divides were the most compelling points of light I experienced amongst the bleakness that presented itself. At the conference I was attending, I met a midwife who works for the Jazoor Foundation for Health and Social Development who gave me one of the few moments of light and hope I felt during my visit. She was passionate about her profession of helping women have healthier babies. She was passionate about teaching others to be midwives, even amongst professional disdain from other health care professionals. (US midwives will remember the time when they were dismissed by doctors, and are now an important part of the maternal child health system.) Her brains, her heart, her attitude radiated light. She worked with other amazing, passionate advocates for health, social development and peace in the organization, led by another brilliant, passionate woman. (I’m kicking myself for not having her name handy, but it is on my home computer and I’m on the road!)
Women who are catalyzing positive change.
I would name this radiant midwife, and share a short video we made of her, but I have not asked her permission. I’ll try and remmber to do that when I get home to let you experience a bit of her light.
So the message of The Girl Effect site resonated with me this morning. Wherever we work – in businesses, education, non profit, or independent spirits in the world, what are we doing to foster this light in girls and women? Because so far, they are the best bet I can see for making positive change in the world. By no means am I dismissing boys. But girls are so often dismissed, when they may be the best chance we’ve got.
(A small suggestion to the Girl Effect folks. Your about page is in flash, making it hard to copy and share the stats. Yes, I know I can download the data, but that is one more step. Plus data is still locked in a PDF. For strong virality, making it simpler and easier may be more important than making it slick. )