While staggering statistics and painful stories are often the images sent out of Africa, I was delighted to hear that the international community is acknowledging and discussing the crucial role girls play in economic development! Finally, influential people with the power to make real change are talking solutions to some of the world's biggest problems and they are finally focusing on girls.
The panelists highlighted the importance of investing in "The Girl Effect" which is no new news. The research documents that investing in girls provides exponential returns - girls will do more with the resources offered to them and invest more into the health and education of their family and community.
The forum emphasized that...
- Investing in girls is smart economically
- Economic solutions are often masked by culture
- Girls must be reached before age 12 to have an impact
- Girls won't count until we count them
- A little bit of support is not enough
Of course there are critical impacts we can make from the West in terms of our top-down aid and supportive policy, but I would like to see increased support of more homegrown, or bottom-up responses that encourage girls to come up with their own solutions to the problems that directly impact their lives - they are our greatest resource for information and implementation.
Poverty, illness and women's role in both, are entirely cyclical and trying to combat the cycle at only one juncture is simply illogical. We need a multifaceted approach that is solidly based in evidence and has clear pathways for evaluation and accountability.