BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Girl Effect: Giving Young Women a Chance

Here is my latest blog for The New Internationalist: I invite fellow bloggers to join the Girl Effect blogging campaign.

The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign 2011 officially kicked off on 4 October. The campaign, spearheaded by blogger Tara Mohr, is really all about recognizing the potential of adolescent girls in the developing world.
I found out about the campaign through another blogger, Roxanne Krystalli, and I felt compelled to contribute to it in whatever way I can. For how can I not when I see the need for it within my own country?

There’s no limit to the list of things that could help girls recognize their full potential while at the same time preserving their dignity.

In my part of the world, the lack of access to quality education, especially in impoverished areas, makes it difficult for girls to get out of their desperate situations.

Joining this campaign brought back memories of my trip last year to a far-flung village in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The place is called South Upi, and it is so remote that there is no electricity.

I visited the village last year to blog about how the residents survived the country’s very first automated elections. I met a girl who told me that people there are considered lucky if they can buy themselves even a single piece of underwear. The sad thing is that she’s not exaggerating things. The place is as poor as one can imagine.

Girls at school in the Philippines
 Girls at school in the Philippines. Photo by Trishhhh under a CC Licence

‘The lives of the people here are at a standstill,’ I wrote last year for the Think About It global blogging competition. ‘The men spend the whole year toiling kernels of corn in distant farms that are not their own. They earn only once a year, which is during harvest season when they sell their produce to the markets in Cotabato, a province five hours away. This happens only if rodents have not feasted on their crops. The rest of the year they eat whatever vegetables they can harvest. The women while away their time waiting for their men to come home after spending the whole day at the farm. The children of Kuhan, who look half their age from lack of proper nutrition, spend the time playing on the dry earth. They play on wheelbarrows used by their fathers to transport crops. They play on broken benches, sticks and stones, mud and stagnant water. Their laughter reverberates in the air.’

Going back to the Girl Effect blogging campaign, I thought about my South Upi visit because the situation there is a concrete example of how the lack of access to quality education becomes a major source of girls’ inability to get out of poverty.

Girls who are unable to go to school end up prostituted or remain trapped in their situations.

They are forced to work to get their parents out of poverty or because their parents do not have jobs. It’s a cycle of poverty and hopelessness, passed on from one generation to another.

According to statistics from the Girl Effect campaign, 600 million girls live in the developing world and approximately one quarter of them are not in school.

The same statistics shows that an extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 per cent.

Indeed, what a good quality education could do! The importance of the girl effect, really, cannot be overemphasized.