Why do so many non-profit ventures focus on girls and women as the primary agents of change?
- Firstly, women and girls represent roughly half of the world’s population.
- Secondly, women are the most marginalized, the most dominated and exploited, and without outside influence often doomed by cultural mores to remain subordinated. Those with no voice are often overlooked, and rarely given voice or power.
- Girls across the globe do not enjoy basic human rights: freedom from violence, to education, to inherit or own land, to decide when and whether to marry or bear children, or, the right to self-determination.
- One in three women around the globe will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. The daily threat of violence is both a cause and a consequence of a world greatly out of balance.
- Many argue that the most undervalued and untapped forces on the planet are adolescent girls living in poverty.
- And girls are the mothers of the next generation, and the quality of these girls’ lives will literally determine the course of their children’s lives and our collective future.
Organizations today would never think of not investing in high growth markets like China and India. Yet they are still dragging their heels when it comes to investing in women, despite it being a win-win situation for the global economy, organizations and women themselves. This is not just a human rights issue — it also makes absolute business sense.
There is much compelling evidence that women can be powerful drivers of economic growth. Estimates show that if female employment rates were to match male rates, overall GDP would grow significantly in developing countries like Egypt by a massive 34%.
The World Economic Forum also published their annual Global Gender Gap report — the data suggests a strong correlation between those countries that are most successful at closing the gender gap and those that are the most economically competitive.
Over the next decade, the impact of women on the global economy — as producers, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers — will be at least as significant as that of China’s or India’s one-billion-plus populations, if not greater. If women’s economic potential can be successfully harnessed and leveraged, it would be the equivalent of having an additional one billion individuals in business and in the workforce contributing to the global economy. It’s for this reason that Ernst & Young has been involved in the Third Billion global campaign, which unites governments, NGOs, corporations, youth and others to partner toward ensuring women’s access to legal protection, education and training, finance and markets.