22 May, 2022


Friends Through Investing In Girls

By Prashanthi Jayasekara

Fight Intergenerational Poverty And Its Friends Through Investing In Girls

Prashanthi Jayasekara

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. 

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Latest comments

  • 0

    I agree with your comments on girls. Having an educated daughter myself I know the value of girls. Same time isnt this cause gender specific and hence discriminatory. I have a boy too and I never discriminate between them. Whether girl or boy they need care and attention. Girls require some additional care and protection.

  • 0

    In the sixties,”little mothers classes” were conducted on saturdays for schoolgirls aged 12 and over by Public health Nurses serving in
    ‘health areas’ under each Medical Officer of Health.
    Infant Care,Infant Feeding (breast feeding emphasised),signs & symptoms of common ailments and management of same,advantages of ‘small’ families,nutrition,care of common injuries,immunisation,health habits,family problems etc. were discussed/taught.
    MOHs conducted Antenatal Clinics,Well Baby Clinics & Family Planning Clinics which were very popular.
    All these can be revived.
    Today,contraception should be taught to older girls,as many die/suffer from after effects of clandestine abortions.
    Contraceptives including the Morning After Pill should be made freely available to married & unmarried females.
    All this will promote happier,healthier life for girls and women.

  • 0

    I do not believe that Sri Lankan society respects women much anymore. In spite of the traditional cultural ethos elevating the status of women due to their capacity for “motherhood” and the reverance that accompanies it, events and attitudes now tell quite a different story.

    Girls are now probably seen more as sexual objects than ever before, and sexual opportunities are followed as if to conform to some pre-ordained requirement! Hence the nurturing and cultivation of girls to become good equal citizens seems somewhat sidelined. A pity, that…

  • 0

    This is one of the most important issues, how humanity treats women and womanhood. At the most fundamental level, pre natal, post natal and infancy stages of all of us, it is the women (mother) who bears overwhelming responsibility, often sacrificing her own health, safety, nutrition levels, and then happiness career etc etc;.

    Yes, humanity hasn’t fully appreciated and honored – for the want of a better term – the woman, yet.

    But, these initiatives, though better than nothing, will even address any of these issues any more than our societies do now. With the words, investing etc; they dangerously get close to what Larry Summers ( in Pakistan) et al; tried to put across around 20 years ago.

    And they just fizzle through, leaving only facebook pages and a lot of seminars and other junkets, I’m afraid.

  • 0

    I read just yesterday in the newspapers the story of a twelve year old girl taken to courts for stealing eight coconuts, and the court ordering a bail of 50,000 rupees to free her pending prosecution. She had been asked by the school to bring 800 rupees for painting the school walls, and since her parents were too poor to spare 800 rupees she stole the coconuts. Everything that Prashanti says here is important, but I think this sad story brings out her point about the economic side of the issue. I particularly like Prashanti’s emphasis on the economic, because it has significance for something larger and important for us as a nation. One reason why we have as a nation lost our way and given into the machinations of wily politicians is our willingness to be misled by propaganda about “culture”, to the devaluation of the economic. “Culture”, often talked about with examples of ancient glories and a “hydraulic civilization”, has been the opiate that has enabled our politicians to abuse power, starting with 1956 and assuming brutal proportions in the present dictatorship in all but name. Instead of “Sinhala Only” our slogan should have been “Commerce Only”, “commerce” meaning not narrow trade, but a mosaic of healthy and profitable relations between all ethnic and religious groups as equal citizens. I don’t know whether “home science” is a school subject (for girls) any longer. If it is, it should be replaced by courses in the ABC of business enterprise that will help inculcate rational thought and management in young girls, and provide them with the tools of their emancipation.

  • 0

    This is very good article.

    Western countries, after the second world war when the weapons industry died down, considered to continue employing in the industry and justified it by saying not employing made the country’s economy losing billions. But, that resulted in so many broken families,as women became independent economically, and resulted so many depressed and sad children without families to grow up.

    On the other hand, providing means to begin home-based industries in developing countries such as Africa resulted raising the living standards of children. As well many families pakistan like countries are said to in poverty for ever because their mothers do not know direct the children in proper way.

    So, it is important to invest in girls.

  • 0

    Wow talk about being politically correct ! What replies !

    So a malnourished and undereducated man doesn’t have a adverse effect on society ?

    Or is it that girls should be PREFERRED to boys ?

    Where on earth is this leading to !

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