What will the world look like in 2015? And how can we make it a place that offers sustainable health and well-being for everyone?  At the Annual Symposium of the UW-Madison Global Health Institute, Ruth Levine described the burgeoning youthful population that is projected to dominate the global south as an asset rather than a liability, provided that we make the right investments, and provided that we “Start with a Girl.”

Levine identified the years from 12 to 14 as a crucial time in a girl’s life, where risks to health and well-being can increase, and her choices, her world, can become increasingly narrow.  If secondary schooling is withheld, a girl is confined to the home, child marriage is encouraged, and she is exposed to abuse and exploitation, she is destined to be trapped in a life of poverty and suffering.  On the other hand, for about a dollar a day, we can provide girls with community-based supported, health services designed to meet their needs, schooling and economic opportunities that can help us realize human rights for girls, and, at the same time,  benefit from a demographic dividend that will enhance the well-being of everyone.  See the keynote presentation here:   http://videos.med.wisc.edu/videos/39524

If you would like to know more about this effort you can read the complete report,  Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health by Miriam Temin and Ruth Levine, and review related news and resources at:  http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/1422899.

Further, you can see what change looks like for individual girls, and join the movement to change things for girls, at  The Girl Effect, where there are stories about girls from a number of countries and lots of ideas about how to get involved.


What about boys, you might be asking yourself?  They don’t experience the same risks and narrowing of choice and agency that girls do, but their needs are important also.  This movement is about extending education and opportunities to girls alongside, not instead of, boys.  To really make change we will have to work with girls and boys, men and women, so that the rights of girls and women are respected, and they are allowed to achieve their potential.