Don’t let women be runners up in the human race


In the West, women still don’t have equal pay. We’re getting about 75 pence in the pound, or 75 cents in the dollar. Plus we’re getting concussion hitting our heads on the glass ceiling, plus we’re expected to windex it whilst we’re up there. But in the developing world, the fate of females is much worse.

Girls in the developing world are runners-up in the human race. Females are fed last and fed least and one woman dies every minute in childbirth. When the mother dies, it’s the girls who are taken out of school and forced into domestic slavery or prostitution.

Yet failing to send girls to school is costing the world’s poorest countries billions of pounds a year. No education means girls are confined to dangerous, unskilled work – neglecting their earning potential and slowing a country’s recovery from the current financial crisis. The global economic downturn also means girls are the first to lose their jobs, may end up in the sex trade and are more likely to die young. As a result of the economic slump, an extra 50,000 African babies will die before their first birthday this year. Most of these will be girls.

Millions of girls never receive secondary level education across the world because culturally boys are considered more worthy and better earners. That means half the population in the poorest regions of the planet are ignored as an untapped resource. 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.

In this era of financial instability, the only bank we can count on is the sperm bank. Yet as copulation equals population, an unplanned pregnancy means joining a giant missing person’s bureau. And who is missing – the girl with potential – the girl she was B.C – before childbirth. It’s a vicious cycle – a menstrual cycle, which can only be broken by education, contraception and nutrition. Female-led microfinance projects have the power to break another cycle too, the cycle of poverty.

To help highlight the plight of girls in the developing world and promote Plan International, I gathered a gaggle of inspirational women at my place, Sky newsreader Kay Burley, actress Maureen Lipman and Sinead Cusack, human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti and wife of the then Prime Minister Sarah Brown. We wanted to highlight the fact that “girl power” could kick start ailing economies. The international community must act now to save every girl who is illiterate, impoverished, ignored and ill-treated.

For the future of the planet, it’s imperative that young women be treated as equals, instead of sequels.

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

A recent study revealed that £2 billion could be added to the economy of Kenya alone if the country educated its girls to secondary school level.

Lack of education consigns girls to a life of domestic servitude . The cycle of poverty is continued as uneducated mothers are less likely to send their own children to school.

If you’re a young woman in Britain the recession could cost you your job, but in some countries it could costs you your life.

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