I’m one of the lucky. I was born to educated upwardly moving middle class Caucasian parents in the United States in 1961. That’s luck.
I always had the basics – food, clothing, shelter, hygiene supplies, and medical care.
I always had education and the expectation that I would excel and obtain as much education as I could. I earned a Masters degree by age 25, without incurring financial debt, because of that expectation and support.
I always knew that I was safe in my home and reasonably so in my community.
I always knew that I had the choice of whom to marry and the choice to have children. I did marry, though rather late at age 43, and by choice I’ve never had my own children.
I always knew that I had possibility in work and that opportunity would be there. I was given the message that I could do or be almost anything I chose.
I always knew that my life was my own and that I was a valuable individual with rights and responsibilities.
I always knew I had options and resources.
That’s the luck of the time and place I was born and who I was born to.
That’s the luck that 600 million girls in our world do not have.
Here are some startling facts about girls in our world:
- One girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15. 38% marry before age 18.
- Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
- Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70% are girls.
- In Nicaragua, 45% of girls with no schooling are married before age 18 versus only 16% of their educated counterparts. In Mozambique, the figures are 60% vs. 10%; in Senegal, 41% vs. 6%.
- A survey in India found that girls who married before age 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped, or threatened by their husbands as were girls who married later.
- One-quarter to one-half of girls in developing countries become mothers before age 18; 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth in developing countries each year.
- Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
Here’s some of the good news:
- 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.
- An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20%. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25%.
- When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40% for a man.
Why should you pay attention?
Because you are probably one of the lucky. You may have not had all the advantages that I did, or you have worked hard to overcome some serious struggles in your world, but you likely have more luck than the hundreds of millions of girls who live in poverty and violence in our world.
I feel responsibility for my luck.
I feel that I was made lucky in order to give a hand up (not a hand out).
I feel that educating girls and widening their options in their own cultures and communities is what will help.
I feel that providing girls and women opportunities to be empowered with education and resources and safety is a way out of the mess our world is in.
What about you? Do you feel responsibility for your luck?
For more information about how to make a difference in our world by giving girls a hand up go to www.girleffect.org. You can also find references for all the above statistics there.
PS – if you didn’t watch the video before you started reading and you’ve gotten all the way down here (yay for you!), go back and take a peek. I dare you not to care after that!
PPS – I would love for you to leave a comment. How did the video make you feel? Do you feel responsibility for your luck?