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Investing In Girls For Major Economic Growth In Developing Countries

How do you add U.S.$3.4 billion to Kenya’s gross income every year? According to The World Bank, this could be achieved if all 1.6 million adolescent girls in Kenya completed secondary school and the 220,098 adolescent mothers were employed instead of falling pregnant early. In its newly released report, "Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend," The World Bank calculates the positive economic impact for fourteen developing countries if interventions reverse the patterns of early school dropout, teenage pregnancies, and joblessness for girls.

The Girl Effect is an enchanting three-minute video that shows how education for a twelve year old girl in a developing country is a game-changer. The video was released four years ago by the Nike Foundation (whose president, Maria Eitel, is pictured left in Ethiopia) with support from Jennifer and Peter Buffett’s NoVo FoundationThe Girl Effect has been viewed by over three million people.

"The World Bank’s report shows that The Girl Effect is not nice, it’s necessary. Necessary for economic growth and development in emerging countries," explained Maria Eitel. For the past four years at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), she and I have discussed her work on behalf of girls, and I have seen Eitel build support and momentum among a multitude of public and private supporters. "The Girl Effect is not a program. It’s a movement," said Eitel. With CGI’s Seventh Annual Meeting coming up next week, Eitel noted that "CGI has sustained its energy and efforts in making girls central to the meeting for the third year in a row."

"In Africa, girls are not cared for as much as boys. The girl is quiet. And she is not to question the system that is in place," said Juliette Musabeyezu, 17, from Rwanda, during our conversation. Musabeyezu was an intern at the Girl Hub, a joint initiative of the Nike Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development.  The Girl Hub involves girls in policies and programs to unleash The Girl Effect, "whereby the 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world have the chance to grow into healthy mothers, active citizens and educated members of their societies—and transform their families, communities and nations along the way."  (from the Girl Hub website)

Musabeyezu has no intention of being quiet. "My plan is to make noise. To be an activist for this girl who is quiet," she said. Based on her formidable achievements to date, Musabeyezu will not only make noise, but she will be heard, and she will help change the world. When we spoke, she was just beginning her first week of freshman year at Harvard. In a few days, she’ll speak at CGI.

Next week, the report on "Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend" will be presented at The World Bank Annual Meeting. The purpose of the report is to provide policy makers, development experts, donors, corporations, and NGOs with the data they need to invest in girls in developing countries.