The Girl Effect

AOW is all about women. We talk about women’s issues. About what being a woman is really like. We discuss how we know when we’re ready to have a baby, how men and women still aren’t equal, and how hard it is to know what path to choose in life. They’re all valid and important topics, and subjects that we’ll never shy away from on AOW.

Sometimes though, it can be all too easy to forget how lucky we are to have those dilemmas, can’t it? I’ve been known to complain about how difficult it is to choose between a career and your child, or (shock horror) do both. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s occasionally wished that I didn’t have to choose. I’ve recently been reminded though that women in the developing world are still nowhere near having the same rights as men in their countries, let alone the chances to choose that we have.

I saw this infographic on a friends facebook post last week, and was about to share it on our Facebook page, when I realised I was worth more than a Facebook post. I wanted everyone to see it, to discuss it.

Infographic from USAID via  Pinterest via The Girl Effect

Scary statistics. It’s hard to believe that this level of disparity and sheer lack of options can still exist today. But they do. Women are still nowhere near equal to men. What stands out for me though is what a difference it would make to the WORLD, to society as a whole, not just women, if women worldwide were given the support and choices that they deserve. We’ve talked in the past about feminism being something that both women AND men should be interested in, and this is a perfect example of why. Whilst women are still treated as second-class citizens, countries and governments are missing a trick.

Allowing women access to education and healthcare would make such a difference in eradicating poverty,  it seems unbelievable that it’s still something that needs fighting for. It’s something I want to fight for. Something AOW wants to fight for. Just look at what a difference it can make:

One girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15.


38 percent marry before age 18.


One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.


Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.


 When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.


In Nicaragua, 45 percent of girls with no schooling are married before age 18 versus only 16 percent of their educated counterparts. In Mozambique, the figures are 60 percent versus 10; in Senegal, 41 percent versus 6.


A survey in India found that girls who married before age 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped, or threatened by their husbands as were girls who married later.


An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.


When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

(All facts and data taken from The Girl Effect)

Such simple things can make such huge changes. That’s where The Girl Effect comes in. The Girl Effect is a movement. It’s about ending poverty. And it’s about doing so by investing in girls.There are 600 million adolescent girls living in poverty in the developing world. If these girls could have safe places to meet, education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills, they could thrive. And if they could thrive, everyone around them could thrive, too. It seems so simple. Help one girl, and it can impact upon so many people, and generation after generation. This video says it better than I ever could. Trust me, watch it. I defy you not to feel moved to act.

Video courtesy of The Girl Effect, via YouTube

See what I mean? It all seems so…simple. So obvious. A society can’t possibly function fully if 50 percent of its population is not being given the opportunity to fulfil its potential.  The only way changes can happen in the developing world, both economically and socially, is through the empowerment of the next generation of women.

Simple things like allowing girls to stay in school to complete their education, providing health-care, particularly antenatal and postnatal, giving women opportunities, and simply just believing in them, could have a huge impact on villages, townships, countries.

It just starts with one girl.

I don’t often write about politics, because there are others that do it better than I do. I wasn’t sure where I was going with this post when I started writing it, but half way through, I had to stop and email the rest of Team AOW and tell them about The Girl Effect, because I realised that it was just the perfect fit for AOW. That it was something that AOW could, and should, get behind.  Between us, we’ve decided we want to support this cause. We’ve not decided exactly how yet (although we have a few ideas), but we are be working on it, and will let you know once our plans are in place. Any ideas from you lovely lot will be more than welcome. In the meantime, we’ve added the badge on the right there, so that you can access the website anytime (Go. Now. Explore. Learn.)

AOW is not about forcing causes down your throats. Don’t feel you have to get involved. I’m not trying to persuade you to help financially (although you can donate here. I have.) and I’m not trying to persuade you to give up your career and head off to provide practical support and aid to women in need (although that’s exactly what Zan did). I think what I wanted to do was just to remind us all that we’re lucky to have the issues that we have, and to have the decisions we have to make. So many women will never be lucky enough.

Categories: Politics and Feminism, Written By Clare
10 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    C, may I be the first to say, you should write about politics more often. Fact.

    The statistics are terrifying. And I know AOW isn’t about forcing causes down reader’s throats, but to me this doesn’t seem like a cause, it’s just facts. And sense. About education being emmpowering and basic rights being for all. I’m proud we’re supporting this.

  2. Zan
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Oh Clare, this is fantastic! And I’m probably an obvious person to say that given my experience with and interest in women in the developing world, but this is beautifully written. I agree that sometimes it’s easy to forget how much harder women the world over have it. Not that I’m downplaying issues women have here in the UK but sometimes it takes a nudge to look outside your immediate perimeter and see what’s happening in the world.

    I volunteer with Girlguiding UK and (putting all stereotypes aside) this kind of thing is a big part of what we do. Putting the girls first is part of our general ethos and the worldwide organisation is hugely involved in advocacy and pushing better education, healthcare and opportunities for girls and women in all parts of the world.

    I’d not heard of The Girl Effect before, but I’ll check out the website later :)

  3. Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, I’m a bit of a cynic so I had to go research The Girl Effect for a bit, anything linked strongly to the Nike Foundation to me bears investigating, because I’m a bit of a closet anti-Capitalist and big businesses acting philanthropic makes me ask questions. On top of that, I was a bit (read: very, tearfully) disillusioned by the Kony 2012 debacle earlier this year. In light of that, and in the interests of debate, there’s an interesting questioning article on The Girl Effect here

    That said, it does seem like an excellent idea and I have no qualms about the basic cause, I believe in equal opportunities for all men and women, and it is undeniable that women in developing countries get a very poor deal. All women (and men) should have the right to their full education and to choose when they marry and when they have children, and basically how they live their lives. Investing in that empowerment cannot be a bad thing.

    K x

    PS: Clare, please definitely write about politics more!!

    • Clare
      Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the link Katie – really interesting. You’re absolutely right – it’s always good to research these things, and I’m aware that there have been some questions over the fac that they’re linked to a corporation.

      The way I see it though, is that anything that raises the awareness of the way girls and women are still being held back, must be a positive thing. The information, and media that they provide are so accessible, it’s something that everyone can get involved with.

      • Posted July 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely agree, raising awareness of the issues couldn’t be more important, and a campaign as accessible as this is an incredible start. My only concern at all would be knowing where the funding is going, and how it’s distributed etc. In terms of awareness, there is nothing bad about raising the profile of women who are held back around the world. 100% behind that!

        K x

        • Zan
          Posted July 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          But then, how can you know where the funding is going for definite anyway? I know people who won’t contribute to global charities and causes because they’re of the opinion that ‘the money will never get where it needs go to/be siphoned off/stolen by corrupt officials’ etc

          Have to say, it’s never stopped me as my desire to help tends to prevail, but I don’t think you can ever be 100% certain, be it a massive charitable fund or a small local organisation….

          Anyway – will be shush now, don’t want to take away from the main message of the post!

  4. Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, yes, yes. Definitely. Perfect for AOW. Well done, Clare. So well put.

  5. Frances
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Really interesting post and useful counterbalance from the Guardian article (although from my reading of it I think the author slightly misses the point of investing in girls – just because something doesn’t make a significant statistical difference doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t worth doing).

    I used to volunteer with both Guides and Scouts (I was one of the first female cub scouts in my district – sports day was admittedly tough but we did get a giant tent for two people when the group went camping!) and know how important organisations are like that for providing an area/ time for girls to come together, have fun and grow through experiences – I want to go back to volunteering at some point when life comes together a bit. Education and empowerment are extremely important for all.

  6. Nicki
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink


    I’ve been lurking in the background for a while now. I really like these kind of posts on AOW!

    Improved women’s education can have such impact on their lives and those around them. I’m always amazed at how much of a positive effect it has. For those of you interested, Camfed, a charity based in Cambridge (, funds girls in Africa, and some boys too, through education. They also have some very interesting interviews with some of the women they helped who now run their own small businesses.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  7. Posted July 29, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Amazing Clare, thank you for posting this! (and I’d like to join in the chorus for more please)

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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