If you want to change the world, invest in an adolescent girl. An adolescent girl stands at the doorway of adulthood. In that moment, much is decided. If she stays in school, remains healthy, and gains real skills, she will marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and earn an income that she’ll invest back into her family.
But if she follows the path laid down by poverty, she’ll leave school and enter marriage. As a girl mother, an unskilled worker, and an uneducated citizen, she’ll miss out on the opportunity to reach her full human potential. And each individual tragedy, multiplied by millions of girls, will contribute to a much larger downward spiral for her nation. Investing in girls is the right thing to do on moral, ethical, and human rights grounds. Perhaps no other segment of society globally faces as much exploitation and injustice, and we owe girls our support as integral, yet overlooked, members of the human family. Investing in girls is also the smart thing to do. If the 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world today follow the path of school drop-out, early marriage and early childbirth, and vulnerability to sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, then cycles of poverty will only continue. Yet today, only a tiny fraction of international aid dollars is spent – and spent effectively – on needs specific to girls.