Where’s Our Hallelujah Chorus? It’s With The Girls.

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It might be raining men, but we’ll say hallelujah when girls and women receive equity in the developing world. We sometimes forget—since we live in a society where, for the most part, girls and women are respected, revered and given the same level of opportunity as their male counterparts—that life is not so grand for our sisters in developing nations.

Despite extensive evidence that an empowered female population results in more stable, developed and successful communities, girls are frequently denied education, a public life, civil rights and the opportunity to be economically viable in developing regions worldwide. Adolescence has been identified as a make or break life stage for a girl and that’s why The Nike Foundation has honed in on girls as the gatekeepers to prosperity. Check out http://www.girleffect.org and find out for yourself (in 2mins or less) why investing in girls can change the world.

Wonder woman Lisa MacCallum, Managing Director of The Nike Foundation (NF), is convinced that it won’t be technology saving the planet from despair—it will be an adolescent girl, given all the opportunity in the world to live her dreams. Consider these startling facts:

  • 75% of HIV-infected youth in Africa are female.
  • 70% of the world’s out-of-school youth are girls.
  • 500 million women on our planet can’t read or sign their name.
  • 25-50% of girls become mothers before the age of 18 in developing countries.
  • Pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for girls ages 15-19
  • When a girl in a developing nation receives just seven years of school, she will marry four years later and have 2.2 less children on average. (That’s a standard American family less, by the way).
  • If given an economic opportunity, she will also reinvest 90% of her income back into her family, as opposed to 30-40% for men.

Still not convinced that investing in girls will provide a necessary tipping point?

Lisa would remind you that there are over 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world alone That’s 600 million chances to change the world and a large percentage of those girls are being denied that opportunity. Families are making short term economic decisions when it comes to their girls. In a rural environment she will be pulled out of school to marry (for a dowry) to an older man. In an urban environment, she will likely have to rely on a sugar daddy to pay her school fees and other things… in exchange for sex. When a girl reaches adolescence and the only asset she has is her body…. That has dire consequences for things like HIV infection rates and as a result the health and prosperity of the next generation.

Change that picture to include a girl who is educated, connected to her community, entrepreneurial, engaged and committed to doing her part to uplift her community and we would easily change the course of history for the better. Operating humanity with only 60% of our human potential engaged and productive just doesn’t make sense. But that’s what we’re doing right now. Is anyone really surprised that things aren’t as they should be?

So what can we do? Give a girl a fish? Or teach her to fish? You’ve probably already guessed the correct answer (teach her to fish!) and that’s just what The Nike Foundation is throwing all of their energy into. It’s a multi-pronged effort. First they look at affecting the girls directly through programs that educate, provide basic needs, give financial opportunity and encourage economic participation—while also tapping into the talents and insights of communities in developing regions through involvement in program development and implementation. The Nike Foundation also invests in a tremendous amount of research to understand what investments work for girls and why and also to measure investment impact. Finally and critically, NF is working hard to get girls more specifically on the agendas of governments, NGOs and businesses and as a result encourage the significant levels of investment and focus this untapped opportunity represents.

It’s a world-changing mission – an inspiring vision they’re putting out there, which is exactly why we’re bringing Lisa to speak at the Africa Bridge Harvest Gala on Saturday, August 29th, 2009. Africa Bridge started in Tanzania with the primary purpose of uplifting children (though they consequently affect entire communities) out of poverty through education, financial skills and economically-based village cooperatives, which administer micro-loans to their community members.

It’s The Girl Effect at work in the world, proving it’s power and saving the planet one Tanzanian village at a time.

We can’t wait to hear Lisa MacCallum share her powerful vision at the Africa Bridge Harvest Gala and we know you won’t want to miss it. Join us for a night of inspiration + celebration!

Read more on The Girl Effect at:
http://www.girleffect.org

For more on Lisa MacCallum and The Nike Foundation, visit: http://www.nikefoundation.org

To join us at the Africa Bridge Harvest Gala register online at:
http://www.africabridgegala.com/event_registration or call 503.226.2377.

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