Posted by: ae | February 12, 2010

The Girl Effect

What is the girl effect?

The girl effect is a powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in society. Driven by the notion that young women are likely agents of change in the developing world, but largely invisible to society. It’s simple: Investing in girls is the key to eliminating poverty and creating a better world.

The reality of the lives of girls and women in developing countries is often quite troubling. Here are some facts:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls and young women worldwide.
  • Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are out of school; that’s 70% of the world’s out-of-school youth.
  • Girls with little to no schooling are more likely to marry and have children before the age of 18.
  • Sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and gender-based violence are a reality for many young girls and women.
  • More girls have been killed in the last half decade, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century.

But, there’s hope:

  • When a girl in the world receives seven years or more of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990).
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man (
  • Just one extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s eventual wages by 10 to 20%. An extra year of secondary schools, 15 to 25% (
  • There is a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers (
  • The economic growth in Asia was, in large part, due to the economic empowerment of women. East Asian countries took young women who previously had not contributed to the GNP and injected them into the economy, hugely increasing the labor force.

For more information and to find out how to get involved in the opportunity to better the world, visit:

Or read:

Kristof, Nicholas D. and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. (Knopf, 2009)



  1. Intriguing. But I’m a bit skeptical about those statistics. My inner historian is screaming for citations 😉

    • The statistics are legit. Most are from the website and a few are from the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn). From one historian to another, apologies for my lack of citations.

      • I don’t know… girls being killed “precisely because they were girls” seems to be a difficult thing to measure. Even battle casualties are hard to pin down.

        And the economic growth of Asia was spurred by a whole host of different factors, many of which have nothing to do economic empowerment. The consolidation and nationalization of industry, post-war political stability, Soviet/American support (for China and Japan, respectively), the decline of colonialism…

        …But now I’m rambling 😉

      • It is a large number and of course extremely difficult to measure, which means it could be even larger than what we know. Girls and women all over the world are die because of their sex. Think deaths in child birth, pregnancy, widow burnings, violent relationships, improper medical attention, female genital mutilation, sexual infections, rape…to name a few.

        Also, I understand that the economic growth of Asia was accomplished through a number of factors, but the economic empowerment of women is definitely among these factors.

        That said, I think this is an extremely important movement, if only because it opens are eyes to the unfortunate situation of women around the world.

  2. This post is my favourite so far! Super interesting and the statistics are really shocking. However, they do encourage the population to invest in female education to better the health, safety, and income-earning ability of women.

    Does this lack of education have a strong correlation with the residential countries of these girls? If so, it may require a restructuring of the culture itself. This will include the priorities of families such a greater emotional and economic investment in a female child’s upbringing. This is easier said than done. Not only are there strong cultural bonds to break, but often poverty plays a big part in a child’s future.

    The Girl Effect sounds like a great investment for both the girls themselves as well as the world’s future. However, it is a big mountain to climb and I hope they are up for the challenge.

  3. I agree, women die from many problems related to their sex. But to say they are “killed” by, say, childbirth seems to be a bit unfair. I’m sorry for nitpicking, but I just think that statistic could have been presented in a more specific, less sensational way.

    Of course, it’s important to inform the world about impoverished and abused women. But it’s also important not to apply Western standards to other cultures. For example, who’s to say that an early marriage is necessarily a bad thing?

    Dare I mention the unfortunate efforts to “liberate” Muslim women from the hijab?

    Can you tell my studies were focused on cultural imperialism? xP

    • I can tell.

      Yes, I was very critical, and indeed skeptical at times when reading about the girl effect. It does apply Western standards to other cultures. But I do believe that there are some universal rights that should be afforded to women not only around the world, but also in North America.

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