World Economic Forum Panel Discussion Focuses on Investing in Adolescent Girls

World Economic Forum Panel Discussion Focuses on Investing in Adolescent Girls

Leaders of foundations, corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, over the weekend agreed that significant investments in educating girls could help rejuvenate many of the world's economies, the Associated Press reports.

For the first time, the forum devoted one of its plenary sessions to the impact of educating girls in developing countries. Moderated by CARE USA president and CEO Helene Gayle and featuring Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda French Gates, World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Indonesian minister of trade Mari Pangestu, Nike CEO Mark G. Parker, UNICEF executive director Ann M. Veneman, and Grameen Bank managing director Muhammad Yunus, the session ranged widely and stressed the importance of reaching women in early adolescence — before early marriage, early pregnancy, and/or HIV/AIDS can derail their chances of living happy, prosperous lives.

Despite recent efforts by the NoVo, Nike and United Nations foundations, only half a cent of every international development dollar currently goes toward girls. To help address the dearth of funding, Okonjo-Iweala urged support for a $20 million public-private partnership to educate and train girls in post-conflict countries, noting that 70 percent of the 130 million children out of school today are girls. "If investing in women is smart economics, then investing in even smarter economics," Okonjo-Iweala said. "If you invest in girls, if you educate girls, if you get girls into jobs, you solve many problems."

By providing girls with education and economic-based opportunities, added Parker, there is "a direct connection to shaping the post-crisis world" because girls will help transform their families, their villages, and ultimately their countries. "This isn't necessarily a question of adding more funds. It's a question of directing some of the funds that are already out there to...give us a higher return and give us higher impact."

Edith M. Lederer. "World Economic Forum: Invest in Girls to Combat Poverty." Associated Press 02/01/2009. "World Economic Forum Gives Adolescent Girls a Voice on the Global Stage." United Nations Foundation and Exxon Mobil Foundation Press Release 01/30/2009.