There are 263 million youth worldwide who are not in school. That’s one in every five — a figure that has barely changed over the past five years. Of the youth worldwide who aren’t in school, 70 percent of them are girls. In developing countries, only one out of every four girls attends school.
These girls will grow up to be women. Many will become child brides; they will become wives and mothers before they are women. This is provided that they survive childbirth, as the leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide is maternal mortality.
We speak often of a “war on poverty,” but in order to adequately win the war on poverty, we must end this war on women worldwide. Less than 2 cents of every developmental dollar goes to our girls. Nine out of ten youth programs are aimed at our young men.
She’s the First, a nonprofit organization geared toward educating girls, seeks to change this by helping fund education worldwide. Their “Voice Your Verse” campaign was a blend of poetry, civic duty, and philanthropy, among its participants were Azure Antoinette, an acclaimed poet whom Oprah Winfrey happens to think is amazing; Monique Coleman of “High School Musical”; and Bosilika An, a youth philanthropist and speaker.
Monique Coleman spoke earnestly about the challenges young women face, saying “My experience traveling as U.N. Youth Champion exposed me to many of the challenges that girls face globally. She’s the First is an incredible organization that is addressing one of the most fundamental issues which is education. ‘Voice Your Verse’ was one of those unique and powerful experiences where art and social impact intersected. I loved every minute of it and I will continue to support the organization!”
It’s time to make the investment in our girls — they are worth far more than the 2 cents per dollar they’re receiving. The value of educating our girls will raise the value and economic output of the country as women join the workforce. It will also increase the value of families. Women invest 90 percent of their income back into the household (the average for men is 30 to 40 percent). An extra year of primary school increases girls’ wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school continues to increase wages by 15 to 25 percent.
The math makes sense.