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Girls best placed to end poverty: report -

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Girls best placed to end poverty: report

Rachael Brown reported this story on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 12:50:00

ELEANOR HALL: The global financial crisis might have hit corporate profits but an aid organisation
is warning about a less obvious victim of the downturn.

The international development organisation, Plan, says girls are suffering disproportionately
because of the crisis.

Plan's Chief executive, Ian Wishart, spoke to Rachael Brown about a report he conducted on the
issue.

IAN WISHART: The situation for girls starts pretty bleak. At least 100 million girls are kind of
missing from the world population statistics because of female foeticide.

In other words, gender biased abortions are taking place when people learn that it's a girl, then
when a girl is born, many girls already get stripped of what we call economic assets.

They won't inherit anything from their family just simply because they're a girl.

RACHAEL BROWN: I understand you've been studying 140 girls since birth, from nine countries across
the developing world, how you found that the global recession has compounded their problems?

IAN WISHART: I mean there's one girl called Tatiana I remember when we first met her.

Her dad had gone from El Salvador to the United States to work. We went back this year and her mum
had also left looking for work.

This is a problem of what we call "left behind girls" or "left behind children."

RACHAEL BROWN: The report speaks of the long-term consequences of failing to invest in girls. Can
you explain the link between the lack of investment with a country's poor economic growth?

IAN WISHART: It's estimated that in Indonesia for example, if the workforce participation of women
reached kind of US or Australian standards, Indonesia's growth rate would grow by, you know,
perhaps a half a per cent more.

The difficulty is the pathway for girls through life is littered with what I call trapdoors to fall
down.

You know, its entry to primary school denied, pulled out of high school for an early marriage and
perhaps an early pregnancy, the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

And even if you got through all of that maze, discrimination in actually the awarding of jobs.

So a lot of this needs to be changed for the potential of young women to be released and realised
by national economies.

RACHAEL BROWN: What are you seeing in terms of extra years spent at school and the effect on income
growth?

IAN WISHART: The stats show that the extra year of study of school results in 10 to 20 percent
higher income. If you start multiplying that through five or six years of high school it has a
dramatic effect.

And the other thing that happens is a young women who gets a fair job with a decent wage will
invest 90 percent of that in her family and children, compared to just 30 or 40 percent for men,
I'm afraid.

What that results in is her children will almost certainly be well educated and live outside of
poverty.

RACHAEL BROWN: Would a family keeping a girl at school a couple of years longer would that then
come at the expense of the boys in their family?

IAN WISHART: No actually boys are already doing fairly well in most developing countries. But
unfortunately there's still 20 percent of girls who are not entering primary school.

So it's not about discriminating against boys or neglecting boys, it's about bringing girls up to
the same level, giving them an equal chance to participate in the national and global economy.

RACHAEL BROWN: How would you say girls are uniquely placed to break intergenerational cycles of
poverty?

IAN WISHART: There's so much untapped potential. You know, 500 million girls alone contribute more,
have more to offer, if only they can have the skills to participate.

And it's not that they don't want to, it's that they're not given the chance and because of their
limited education they can't see the possibilities.

If you can unleash that. Evidence shows that these young women will generate income, they'll
produce more agricultural yields, their small enterprises will create jobs.

This is what needs to be done across the developing world.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's Ian Wishart from the international development organisation, Plan,
speaking to Rachael Brown.