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Inside Teaching : June 2011
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org FEATURE 9 Why girls? Investing in a girl has the highest untapped return in development. It’s as simple as that. Start with a girl, and boys win too, because a girl will reinvest 90 per cent of what she earns in her family and community, compared to 40 per cent reinvestment by a boy. An extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s eventual wages by 10 to 20 per cent. An extra year of secondary school boosts eventual wages by 15 to 25 per cent. 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. A girl receiving education and reinvesting her income and knowledge in her family and her community will also have a ripple effect. Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health, and higher levels of schooling among mothers. When she’s healthy, her community’s health will improve as maternal mortality and child malnutrition drop, and HIV rates decline. She will drive agricultural production. As an educated mother, an active citizen, an ambitious entrepreneur or prepared employee, she will break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. A girl is an unrealised economic force, accelerating growth and progress in every sector, and a powerful change agent capable of raising the standard of living in the developing world. The girl effect is about boys too, because when a girl benefits, everyone benefits: her brothers, sisters, future children and grandchildren. Boys and men have a critical role in unleashing the ripple effect of girls, as they often control the environment for girls and have a strong influence over what happens. Boys and men must be part of the solution: breaking the cycle of poverty and building a sustainable global economy cannot happen if 50 per cent of the world’s population is left behind. How it works A girl is more likely to be uneducated than a boy. Seventy per cent of the world’s out-of- school youth are girls; 96 million girls in developing countries are illiterate. A family in poverty loves their daughter just as any family does, but an old equation rules: educating a boy will bring returns, but not so a girl. A girl is valued in her family in the household ‘micro-economy’ as the caretaker of the young, old and sick, as the carrier of wood and water. But because she earns no income, a daughter is married off as soon as possible, removed from the family balance sheet. Families see little incentive in investing in a girl, because she’ll just take that investment with her when she marries. This is particularly so in countries where child marriage is prevalent, where up to 75 per cent of girls are married before they are 18. Thanks to targeted support of adolescent girls, however, this picture is changing. In Bangladesh, in India, in Africa, there are places where girls are starting small businesses. The first thing they do with their income? Put themselves back in school. What’s left over goes to their siblings’ education, and often their family’s expenses. Suddenly a girl is viewed as a good investment, as someone who can