Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ending poverty by investing in girls

Women are more likely than men to spend their money on their families. A new study from Australia puts some facts behind this statement.

The report says investing in girls is the best way to lift families out of poverty. The study from Plan International is urging Australian companies with interests overseas to make sure they have equal hiring practices for women.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, we read more about the study of selfless women. you can download an mp3 of the radio story from here.

The report by Plan International Australia shows young women are the first to lose their jobs or have their education stopped so they can be placed in domestic work during an economic crisis.

Plan has been studying 140 girls since birth. The girls come from nine countries across the developing world.

Plan chief executive Ian Wishart says the report, called Because I am a Girl, shows many countries still have the attitude that girls are not as important as boys.

"The situation for girls starts pretty bleak. At least 100 million girls are missing from the world population statistics because of female foeticide," he said.

"In other words, gender-biased abortions are taking place when people learn that it's a girl. Then when a girl is born, many girls already get stripped of what we call economic assets. They won't inherit anything from their family just simply because they're a girl."

Mr Wishart says recent research by the World Bank shows economic growth is boosted by the number of girls who complete their secondary education and go on to earn higher wages.

"The stats show that the extra year of study of school results in 10 to 20 per cent higher income," he said.

"If you start multiplying that through five or six years of high school, it has a dramatic effect.

"And the other thing that happens is a young women who gets a fair job with a decent wage will invest 90 per cent of that in her family and children, compared to just 30 or 40 per cent for men, I'm afraid.

"What that results in is her children will almost certainly be well educated and live outside of poverty."

But Mr Wishart says it is hard for girls and women in developing countries to get an education and then employment.

"The difficulty is the pathway for girls through life is littered with what I call trapdoors to fall down; entry to primary school denied; pulled out of high school for an early marriage and perhaps an early pregnancy; the dangers of HIV/AIDS," he said.

"And even if you got through all of that maze, discrimination in actually the awarding of jobs. A lot of this needs to be changed for the potential of young women to be released and realised by national economies.

"Unfortunately there's still 20 per cent of girls who are not entering primary school. So it's not about discriminating against boys or neglecting boys, it's about bringing girls up to the same level, giving them an equal chance to participate in the national and global economy."

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