Every year the United Nation Foundation and its partner and associated organizations celebrate International Day of the Girl and the extraordinary power of girls in our world. In 2015, the theme of the Day was ‘The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030,’ which highlighted the importance of girls to achieving the global goals for sustainable development.
The message the UN gave was that ‘to reach our global goals, we have to reach girls and it underlined five reasons why empowering adolescent girls matters to all of us. Here are those reasons.
Fundamentally, this is a human rights issue. Discrimination has no place in the 21st century, and every girl has the right to go to school, stay safe from violence, access health services, and fully participate in her community.
When girls are educated, healthy, and empowered, families are healthier. According to UNESCO, 2.1 million children under age of five were saved between 1990 and 2009 because of improvements in girls’ education. And closing the gap in the unmet need for family planning for the 225 million girls and women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy but aren’t using modern contraception would reduce maternal deaths by 67 per cent and newborn deaths by 77 per cent.
Research from the Brookings Institution has found that every additional year of school increases a girls’ eventual wages by an average of 12 per cent – earnings she invests back into her family. Empowered, educated girls have healthier, better educated children and higher wages – helping to break the cycle of poverty.
According to a new Brookings report, “Increasing the number of women completing secondary education by just 1 percent could increase a country’s economic growth by 0.3 per cent.” Additionally, a report just released by the McKinsey Global Institute found that if women’s level of participation in the labour market was the same as men’s it would add up to $28 trillion to annual global GDP in 2025.
Investing in girls is one of the smartest things we can do to promote a healthier, more prosperous world. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Every girl has the right to be in charge of her future and her fate, and we have the collective obligation to protect her rights and promote her wellbeing.