Fight Intergenerational Poverty And Its Friends Through Investing In Girls
Do you know that around 250 million adolescent girls worldwide are affected with disproportionate poverty? It shouldn’t be treated as one of those ‘nice to know’ pieces of information we discuss over eggs and coffee and morning tete-a-tetes, and forget later. Because – as it has been indicated by research – girls carry the greatest probability to pass adverse effects of poverty to their family members. This means an upheaval of intergenerational poverty.
We’ve been discussing about vicious poverty cycles and its friends such as HIV/AIDS, violence, high mortality rates, health issues, and hunger. It is true that we’ve been forever carrying this invisible bag of hammers filled with agony triggered by causes of global turmoil. Organizations within the development sector, governments, and individually we have been trying to get the hang of dealing with poverty and its unsolicited acquaintances. However it is possible that we have missed out a powerful solution. That is reaching out to girls early in their lives, and giving them greater choice and control over decisions that will help break the cycle of poverty and other issues between one generation and the next.
According to research and evidence amassed over the past two decades, investing in girl-specific resources in the areas of education, health services, reproductive health, and financial literacy leads to generation of adolescent girls who are better educated, safer, healthier, and economically powerful. This can contribute to a substantially better future not just for themselves, but for their families, communities, and the world.
A Vicious Cycle vs. a Virtuous Cycle
Take a twelve year old girl living with poverty for example. She may not be given enough nutrition, and she may never be vaccinated or get a chance to see a doctor. It is possible that poverty may cause her parents to fight over anything from coconut being pricy to milk being scarce. When care belittle in the eyes of poverty, she may drop out of school when she turns fifteen to stay at home and fetch water, milk cattle, or simply to be someone’s bride. With poor health, pregnancy at a young age will subject her to mortal peril. If she survives pregnancy, been poorly educated and therefore with no employment, she will forever be financially dependent on her partner. When her relationships become least egalitarian due to dependency and lack of power, she could be an easy prey for violence.
And if she is ever kicked out of a support system, she might go to the extremes of begging, stealing, and selling her body. HIV and sexually transmitted diseases could haunt her down. And when her life scatters unceremoniously, negligence will be bestowed upon her children; and this vicious cycle will hence continue.
What if the trajectory of an adolescent girl growing up to be a woman is blessed with proper nutrition, good physical and mental health, fine education, the right to make her own choices, security, and support? The impact will be transformational for their own lives, for their families, communities, societies, and economies. A healthy and an educated girl will get married when she is a mature woman. And therefore will reduce complications during pregnancy, and child mortality. She will be educated enough to get a job and invest in herself and her family. And she will be an immense contribution to a country’s economy. An educated and a working woman will make smart choices when it comes to relationships, and will have the power to maintain egalitarian martial relationships. She will educate her children and keep them healthy and protected. She will also be knowledgeable enough to instill good behaviors such as protecting the environment, and respecting people of other religions and nationalities. This virtuous cycle will positively connect a generation to another.
If you invest in a girl, she will contribute to economic growth when she becomes a woman
Watch this video to understand the concept better:
Why Invest in Girls? – The Opportunity Cost
It is imperative to notice that empowered girls across the world will determine the future of the world with respect to population issues, environmental sustainability, poverty and related problems. Investing in a girl could be the key to achieve many Millennium Development Goals.
- Girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely than women aged 20-24 to die in pregnancy or childbirth;
- Providing girls with an extra year of schooling increases their wages by 10-20%;
- Women with more years of schooling have better maternal health, fewer and healthier children and greater economic opportunities;
- A woman with less power is a victim of violence. Therefore egalitarian relationships may reduce the chances of women getting exposed to violence;
- Fewer dependents per worker leads to greater economic growth;
Key Pillars of Investment
Economic assets should be directly accessible to all girls and women. For instance, if a girl has to travel miles alone to fetch water, this may reduce her time for education, and will make her an easy victim of sexual assault. They need to be taught how to manage their finances, and financial services should be accessible to them. A sound knowledge on starting small business and funding options comes in handy for regional economic development.
It is important to make sure that girls stay in secondary school and are not married off, or sent to Middle East for unskilled labor at a young age. Women with more years of schooling have better maternal health, fewer and healthier children, and greater economic opportunities. Sometimes families seldom are aware about return on investment of educating girls; and therefore consider girls to be dispensable. The capability of a girl to set higher targets in life and make her own choices is often belittled and discouraged, and awareness must be made amongst these social groups. While girls are in schools, governments and other responsible organizations must make sure that poverty doesn’t pull them out of schools. Adolescent careers guidance programs, microfinance education groups, HIV/AIDS awareness must be treated as integral elements of education.
Political and legal bodies must take measures to intervene violence against women. It is important to research into innovative approaches to create safe spaces for women, such as work to support behavioral changes. Women should have more access to legal and justice systems.
It is imperative to create opportunities for girls and women subjected to abuse. Investments should be made to make sure that society receives them with respect and equality. Rehabilitation of women engaged in transactional sex should focus on developing their skills to meet employment requirements. And measures must be taken into job placement, and encouraging economically and socially viable entrepreneurship. Because of their lack of economic opportunity and social norms disfavoring them, one should not belittle the economic capabilities these girls and women possess, given their skills are put into good use.
The Role of Men
It is important for men to be aware and understand the potential impact of providing opportunities to girls to succeed. Because in our society, men – fathers, brothers, teachers, politicians – are often gatekeepers and important companions in a girl’s life. Therefore fathers should see more of their daughters than dispensable. Teachers should recognize their skills and motivate them to dream big. Politicians should be better strategists and wise investors in girls. And the community as a whole should create a safer and a welcoming society for girls to succeed. It should be a collaborated effort.
Join the global One Billion Rising Moment (http://www.onebillionrising.org/) on the 14th of February, and Rise Up against gender based violence. Be there at the Lipton Circus at 4.30 p.m. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/OneBillionRisingSriLanka?ref=ts&fref=ts for more information.