President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made the advancement of women’s rights a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. As Secretary Clinton has stated on numerous occasions, empowering women globally is one of the surest ways to create favorable outcomes in poverty alleviation, economic growth, and a country’s general prosperity.
Improving the lives of women begins with investing in girls. Educating girls brings enormous benefits far beyond improving the lives of the girls themselves. Once an educated girl becomes an adult, it is estimated she will earn 20 percent more for each additional year of education she receives beyond grade three or four. Statistics show she will more likely share up to 90 percent of her earnings with her family and her community. She will marry and bear children later, and they will be healthier and more likely to go to school than will the children of her less literate sisters.
In a speech to the Girls Leadership Summit hosted by the UN Foundation's Girl Up Campaign, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer said that “there is a saying that it all starts with a girl. And when a girl can go to school safely, can study and be free from abuse, when she can access health care and have the chance to fulfill her God-given potential, she will not only have a head start but she will contribute to her families and communities.”
Yet today, some 283 million adolescent girls living in rural areas spend their days fetching water and firewood and doing household chores, instead of learning to read and write. Investing in these girls today will bring an enormous benefit in the future.
As Ambassador Verveer said in a recent Voice of America interview, women and girls are being short-changed because of “lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of access to the kinds of things that enable them to move forward. ... Not only are they being short-changed; our world is being short-changed in the process, because their talent is not being tapped.
“Enabling girls to have opportunity is an important contribution we can all make,” said Ambassador Verveer. “When Girls are Up, the world is a better place.”