The Girl Effect

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Let’s say you get $100 in cash as a Christmas gift and you are free to spend that money on anything you like. What will you do with that money? The answer depends on whether you are a man or a woman. I would have spent that money on an electronic item that enhances my self-aggrandizement a little bit more. My wife would spend that money either on a kitchen item, or to buy a new idol for our altar, or to buy something for our extended family members, or consider giving it away to the local temple. There are numerous instances when she insisted on giving a significant part of an unexpected windfall to a local temple!

That is it! That is the fundamental difference between how men and women differ in their priorities. This placement of priorities for women to reinvest in the family or the community is the same whether they live in New York, Tokyo, Singapore or a small town in Africa or India.

I can hear some people grumbling already. Do you know how much my wife spends kind of grumbling. But I have enough statistics to back up my claims.  A study showed that while women spend 90 percent of their income on their family, men put only 30 to 40 percent of their earnings towards theirs.  Grameen banks, initiated by Prof. Mohammed Younus, in Bangladesh lend loans exclusively to women in poor regions of Bangladesh. 97% of these loans were given to women. Can you guess what would be the rate of recovery of on these loans? The banks claim that 97.24% of these loans are fully recovered. All said and done women are better credit risk than men. Combine this better credit risk with women’s natural propensities towards investing for the growth of the family and you will start to notice the powerful role women can play in reducing poverty across the globe.

Because I am a Girl” is a campaign started by Plan, one of the largest international development agencies. They publish annual reports on the “The State of world’s girls”. Here is a story from such a report for year 2009.


Anita is a young woman from a village called Bochaha in the Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, India. She had succeeded in getting her parents to allow her to go to school and earned money by teaching other children what she knew. But she wanted to continue her education. She came up with an idea as sweet as honey. One day, Anita followed a line of men who were attending a government course to learn how to look after bees. Anita was the only girl, but still she attended the class. In three days, Anita learned what she needed to know to begin beekeeping. With the money she had saved from teaching, she bought two queen bees and two boxes for making beehives. Anita was ready for business. Her bees were going to help her go to college. Anita sent her honey by truck to be sold in the market. She did very well, so well that she bought herself a bicycle and rode an hour every day to college. Before her classes in the morning and after her classes ended in the afternoon, Anita looked after her bees. “Beekeeping is the best job,” Anita says, “because it let me stay in school.” Then one day, Anita’s parents tried to talk to her about getting married. Anita was 17 years old and she did not want to get married: she wanted to stay in school and continue making honey. So, to let her parents know just how she felt, she went on a hunger strike. Anita’s parents could not bear to see her so sad and Anita won! She made her parents promise not to talk of marriage until she was 23 years old and had graduated. As time has passed, Anita’s boxes of bees have grown from 2 to 100 boxes. Now, Anita’s father has seen the profits her business makes and he has joined her small company. People in the village also agree that Anita was right and they quietly help Anita when they can because now they know that girls are capable of achieving anything – if they go to school.

This story of Anita is a special one. There are many girls out there who like to get educated. It is a small investment on one girl’s education that can have a tremendous impact on the entire village. Let’s see some more statistics on how investments in educating girls can bring revolutionary changes:

  • 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. There you have it, this is a wonderful solution to the problem of population explosion in India.
  • 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. This empowers girls in unprecedented ways.
  • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. It is needless to say that an educated mother provides nourishing in better ways than an uneducated mother.

Perhaps, the biggest advantage of educating a girl is the empowerment it provides her. She invests this empowerment back into her family. As you can see there is a significant cost that societies pay when the girls remain uneducated.

Something very important happens in a girl’s life as soon as she turns 12. Nothing significant happens in a boy’s life at that age. Age 12 is the turning point for a girl and the following video can illustrate this better than any of the words that I can use to describe the same. All I can say is that it takes you just 3 minutes to view this video, but it will permanently change the way you think of young girls, their problems and how a small correction fixes it all.

Is there anything we can do to help address the situation? The following story illustrates how we all can make a difference in our own small ways.

A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along and throwing them back in the water. ‘What are you doing, son? You see how many starfish there are? You’ll never make a difference.’ The boy paused thoughtfully and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean. ‘It sure made a difference to that one,’ he said.”

If you are convinced about the need to educate the girls in our societies may be you can help. Spread the word, pass on this post to your friends and visit to learn more. When you encounter a girl who is uneducated please help her get educated. It will cost you very little, but it sure will make a difference to that one girl.

Through this site, I personally endorse the phenomenal work done by in teaching the world about the value of educating girls and how that can have such a positive impact on the entire humanity.

Like I mentioned in the previous posts a woman is an epitome of patience. I discussed in another post how the statistics are not in her favor. But we now know educating our girls is the only viable solution to all the problems in the world.

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