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The Girl Effect: The Key To Fighting Poverty

November 16, 2010

I was blessed to attend an all-girls high school where adolescent girls were nurtured and encouraged to be leaders. Every position of leadership –from the sports captains to student council, club presidents to designers– and every typical high school role –athlete, artist, nerd– had to be filled by a girl. I know first-hand the benefit of this nudging as I found myself undertaking challenges I might have otherwise left to the boys if the option was available.

I also know that I’m extremely lucky. Lucky to attend a private school. Hell, lucky that I’ve always known that I would finish high school. Lucky to be in a culture where education is expected.

Now, I live and work in Cambodia where poverty co-opts the choices of many girls. Far too many girls don’t have the opportunity to finish their education.

I’ve personally been invited to the wedding of an underage girl. She was 15 going on 16. He was 24 going on 25. They lied to the authorities. Got her an identity card that said she was 18. Everyone told me this is normal in the countryside. “Don’t worry, it’s ok.” But, I don’t think it is okay.

So, when The Girl Effect says, “we have a situation on our hands,” I wholeheartedly agree. We do. And, it’s a big big big situation.

[if you can’t play the video above, click here.]

The good news? There is a solution. Keep your girls in school. Give them an education. Safeguard their health. Let them become advocates for a better future.

See also: Half The Sky, a book authored by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, which asserts that the best way to fight poverty and extremism is to educate and empower women and girls.

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This post is a response to a call to action from Tara Sophia Mohr. She’s organized 30+ bloggers to write about The Girl Effect on November 16th. After seeing The Girl Effect videos, I knew I couldn’t stay silent. I hope you’ll join the conversation.

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