the girl effect

On the 8 March 2011 we are celebrating the centennary of International Women’s Day – a good occasion to remind us of the plight of girls around the world.

Did you realise that currently:

  • women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half the world’s food, and yet earn only 10 % of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property?
  • women make up 70% of the worlds 1.3 billion people who live in poverty?
  • women over the age of 15 in the least developed countries are twice as likely to be illiterate than men.

The solution? Social investment in girls. Why? When we invest in the positive development of girls it has an equally positive ripple effect on her familiy, her community and her nation. In short: the girl effect.

This is why it is essential that all grants and social investments integrate the situation and needs of girls and women into their strategic plans and guidelines if they wish to maximise their social return on investment.

Likewise, social profit organisations working to improve the conditions of marginalised and disadvantaged need to ensure that they have taken full account of the requirements of girls and young women so they can reach their full potential.

For more information about the importance of girls and women in social investment visit:

  • The Australian Women’s Donors Network –  It’s mandate is: “In Australia, awareness of the impact of and rationale for increased investments in women and girls is being heightened.  The Women Donors Network is building on this movement in two ways. First, by encouraging the funding of projects which invest specifically in women and girls. Second, by embedding gender awareness into mainstream grantmaking so that it addresses the circumstances and needs of women and girls, which are often different to those of men and boys.”
  • International Women’s Day -“Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.”
  • Girl Guides Australia – “Guides provide a non-formal education program that is a dynamic, flexible and values-based training in life skills, decision-making and leadership. It is run by trained volunteer Leaders committed to Enabling girls and young women to grow into confident,self-respecting, responsible community members.”
  • The girl effect
  • The International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) – International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) is an Australian non-profit organisation that creates positive change for women and their communities. Our practical and rights-based projects directly address poverty and oppression in developing countries.

Looking forward to receiving your comments and let’s pause on 8th March 2011 to spare a thought for all those who, during the past 100 years have rocked the boat for us and for all those girls and women who have yet to enjoy the freedom that we take for granted.

about the author: Ulrike Schuermann is an experienced international consultant & social profit coach. Her main areas of interest are social investments, income development for social profits; corporate sustainable development, CSR and business and human rights. She regularly facilitates workshops for social profit organisations and corporations and can be contacted at<

  • Adriana

    Girl power – I’m a great believer. Thanks Ulrike for sharing the video it’s great. Love your new blog – well done :)

  • Mick

    Let me join the growing chorus of men who are publicly acknowledging their concern about, unequal, often shameful, treatment of women in, well, all societies.

    But I’m not convinced the statement, that “equality…starts with education of girls,” is entirely correct, or that the admirable aims of this program will reach their full potential when the “supply side” (if you will) of inequality is not being dealt with.

    Be it the obvious acts of violence or the much larger problem of entrenched inequality, its men, it’s our fathers, brothers, sons, colleagues and friends, who are the individuals culturally and personally invested, whether we acknowledge it or not, the the status quo.

    Would it not follow then, that education of young boys, is just as critical for long term change?

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  • Erin

    Happy International Women’s Day. Great video and website Ulrike. The girl effect is a fabulous vision. Congratulations.

  • I think you are right Mick. I have come across a few programmes focused on fathers, boys and men but nothing systemic. The girl effect does also aim at men and many of the programmes include men realising their importance if we want to see changes at large! We need to break down silos in many other areas as well including this one.

  • Dear Ulrike,

    It’s great to see a blog on gender equality and showing the use of a Nike Foundation campaign, the Girl Effect, to generate awareness on the important impact that girls have in reducing poverty and reching the MDGs.

    Plan has developed a global campaign called “Because I am a Girl” which is designed to fight gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty.

    The campaign is based on a series of reports titled “Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls”. To be published between 2007- 2015 by Plan, these reports examine the rights and needs of girls throughout their childhood, adolescence and as young women – and how they are uniquely placed to break the cycles of intergenerational poverty gripping many people in developing countries.

    Plan argues that investing in girls is the ‘right’ thing to do. The world is currently denying millions of girls their right to reach their full potential. For example:
    • More than 60 million girls are not in primary school
    • Girls are three times more likely to suffer from malnutrition because their families feed boys first
    • Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, but only earn one-tenth of the world’s income and own only one percent of the world’s property titles.
    • Each year roughly two million girls between the ages of 5 and 15 are trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade
    • Females make up to 70 per cent of the 1.5 billion people living on less than $1/day

    Also, investing in girls is the ‘smart’ thing to do.
    • If only 1% more girls receive a secondary education, annual per capita income growth is boosted by 0.3% on average.
    • The reports emphasizes that if you give a girl the skills and opportunities she needs, she will pass them on to her children. A girl who receives adequate education is likely to have less children, but they are more likely to survive, and she will invest more of her resources into those children who will grow up to be productive adults. This is the multiplier effect of investing adequately in girls’ development.
    • Investing in girls who then become active contributors to family, community and society and enacting this multiplier effect has been shown to increase a country’s GDP, thereby increasing that country’s participation in a healthier global economy. It benefits everyone.

    If you would like to read the reports please feel free to contact me.

    • Thanks Meg for your thoughtful and detailed response. I love the video for its simplicity as it can get a complex issue across in a few minutes and might lead others, particularly investors, to integrate these facts into their funding decisions. I would love to do more blogs on the topic as an evolving story and will be in touch with you to get your ideas if you don’t mind and to get copies of the reports!! Kind regards Ulrike

  • Thank you Ulrike for your timely international women’s day reminder of the effectiveness of investing in women.

    I agree with Meg wholeheartedly about the value of investing in girls, but also with Mick that there is no one ‘silver bullet’ and it is vital that men are engaged and not left out. Some of the most effective programs combatting violence against women, such as the one IWDA’s partner organisation, Banteay Srei undertakes in Cambodia,are those which proactively involve and engage men.

    We all need to be tackling this!

    Best wishes

    • Dear Anne, it makes complete sense, thank you for your comment. We can’t solve a problem without those who are directly effected and involved – men and women. I think we still need to remind grantmakers and other social investors that investing in girls and women, even in Australia, is a clever business decision and can multiply positive change! Kind regards Ulrike

  • Love the Girl Effect. They have another video out now too ‘The Clock is Ticking’. Just as compelling…

    • yes, I agree, the 2nd one is fantastic too, I will have to find an angle for another post!!