Global Development Stifled by Lack of Investment in Girls: Plan Canada

Toronto, ON, Canada, September 27, 2009 --( Failing to send girls to school is costing the world’s poorest countries billions of dollars a year, a major new report from Plan International warns today.

Lack of education for girls in developing countries means that millions of girls and women are confined to unskilled work – not only hampering their earning potential but slowing social and economic development for their families, communities and nations.

“Study after study confirms that if young women are economically active, their country’s economy grows and all members of their family benefit,” says Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada. “Investing in girls delivers a higher return than any other investment made in a country’s development, and yet this isn’t happening. That’s a huge loss for everyone.”

Plan’s third annual Because I Am A Girl report, Girls and the Global Economy: Adding it All Up, analyzes the latest OECD data and finds that countries with high levels of institutional discrimination against girls and women are also the least developed.

"Girls and young women could be at the heart of an economic revolution,” says Plan Canada’s Sarah Hendriks, co-author of the report. “Failure to make that investment is a lost opportunity for developing nations and for the world, especially now as we look for ways to stabilize the global economy and build back from the current recession."

In times of economic hardship, girls in the world’s poorest countries are the first to be pulled out of school as families struggle to afford books, uniforms and other costs. Girls and women are also the first to lose their jobs. The report finds that this consigns them to a life of domestic servitude – which leads to a continuing a cycle of poverty as they are less likely to be able to care for their children or send them to school.

Just a one per cent rise in the number of girls attending secondary school boosts a country’s annual per capita income growth by 0.3 per cent. A recent study revealed that $3 billion (Cdn) could be added to the economy of Kenya alone, if the country educated its girls to secondary school level.

Plan is now calling for a global 10-point action plan, which includes providing girls with education, better jobs, access to land or property and leadership opportunities.

World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has first-hand experience of poverty – growing up in 1960s war-torn Nigeria on less than one dollar a day. “There was no food. The situation was so bad that my family could at best have one meal some days,” says Ms Okonjo-Iweala.

It was only a strong family tradition of girls’ education that rescued Ms Okonjo-Iweala from this life. “Investing in girls is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do,” she says.

To coincide with the timing of this year’s report, Plan Canada is launching a nationwide campaign to enlist girls in Canada in a movement to raise awareness of the importance of girls’ rights around the world. “The time for girls has come,” says Paula Roberts, Executive Vice-President of Plan Canada. “Girls have a unique power to bring about social change. We’ve seen it in the developing world and it’s true of girls here in Canada whose social conscience and networks can raise the profile of this issue with the public and policy makers. Over the next five years, we hope to get one million girls here in Canada to lead the charge on getting Canadians to understand the importance of girls’ rights around the world and what they can do to support them.”

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Plan Canada
Steve Theobald