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The Girl Effect
By Sara Laks

The solution to the many of the most pressing issues facing society today is all around us.

Interest in investing in girls and women gained significant momentum in 2009. The Clinton Global Initiative opened its annual meeting on this issue, noting its importance across the board on global challenges such as education, climate change, global health, and poverty alleviation.

Nicholas Kristof, author of the new book, “Half the Sky” which has brought both the plight and potential of women to the forefront of the media this year, writes: “There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth:  Women and girls aren’t the problem, they’re the solution.”

And the evidence shows that this is not just a women’s issue. Each year of schooling increases a woman’s income by 10 to 20 percent and closing the gender gap in education adds a half percent to a country’s per capita GNP. Business and organizations are finding that investment in women and girls is the best route to ensure stable markets and society.

Microfinance institutions such as Pro Mujer and Grameen Bank, have traditionally focused on women because they tend to have the best credit ratings and default on loans less frequently than men. Women living in poverty are much more likely to invest their paychecks back into their family and business than their husbands. A woman will reinvest 90% of her income into her family; a man will reinvest 30-40%.[1]

Why else should we invest in women? The website, the Girl Effect, defined as “the powerful and social change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate,” reports that 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. The implications of this on global health, poverty, and climate change are tremendous.

Investing in women and girls has always been an important part of socially responsible investing and it is encouraging to see the momentum that is growning around this issue.

Sara Laks
Assistant to the President

[1] Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.

Posted: December 2, 2009