Over the past generation our society has made considerable progress in reducing barriers to women’s success. Yet, despite our progress, troubling inequalities persist and affect the lives of millions of girls and young women around the world.

 

In developing countries, one person in eight is a girl or a young woman age 10 to 24. As the fastest growing segment of the population, their welfare is a fundamental input for key economic and social outcomes. Giving these girls an education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills will significantly contribute to what is known as the girl effect on development. A girl who finishes high school has access to a job that pays more than subsistence wages and the chance to start a small business. Educated women invest 90 per cent of their incomes into their families, compared to roughly 30 per cent by their male counterparts.

 

The gap between what we know and what we do, between our ability to end poverty and our efforts to do so lie at the heart of the problem. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) challenge the world’s leading economies to meet targets framed in results-oriented terms.

 

MDG 3, for example, calls to promote gender equality and empower women. The target was to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. Four years after the 2005 target date, gender parity in education has yet to be achieved.


As Canada prepares to host the G8 and G20 summits in June 2010, we must use this historic opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the advancement of girls and women worldwide.


Canada must take the lead and call to put girls and women at the centre of the development narrative. Doing so will yield huge returns in the health of families, peace building, and global economic development.


On this critical issue Canada will be standing together with governments such as Spain and the Netherlands, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations, global foundations and the private sector in responding to the mounting evidence that investing in girls will break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and, conversely, failure to do so could cost the world’s poorest countries billions in economic growth.


For more information on how the NGO community is coming together on this issue, please visit www.girlsandwomen.com.