Day of the Girl

Want to Change the World?
Support Girls.

by Jacki Zehner & Margot Franssen

Today is the first International Day of the Girl. The day calls attention to the impact that lack of education, dearth of economic opportunities and systematic violence have not only on girls, but on society as a whole. It should also push us to act on behalf of girls around the world. Today, we are issuing a call for all to give big and bold to girls – because a world that is better for girls is better for everyone.

Why girls? Because women and girls make up half of the world’s population, but hold just 1% of the world’s wealth. For every year a girl goes to school, her income as an adult increases by 10 to 20 percent.And girls are key to a country’s economic success: Closing the educational gender gap adds 1.5 percent to a country’s GDP every year, a substantial number for any developing nation. Higher education rates, better access to health care and increased gender equality lead to lower infant mortality rates, greater economic prosperity and healthier populations across the board. In other words, what is good for girls is good for everyone.

Yet too many girls never get to realize their potential. Of the 600 million girls in developing nations, a quarter are not in school. A quarter to a half of girls in developing countries become mothers before they turn 18.One in seven are married before their 15th birthday. As many as 1.2 million girls are trafficked every year.

The problems aren’t confined to the developing world. Girls in the U.S. are doing better in school, but still face inordinate amounts of violence: More than half of all female rape victims are under 18, and one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. And sexualization has been shown to have profoundly detrimental impacts on girls’ cognitive functions and their mental, physical and sexual health.

It’s easy to get lost in statistics, but these aren’t just numbers. Behind every one is a specific girl blocked from reaching her full potential. The levels of violence, exploitation, and oppression girls around the world face every day should shock all of us, and drive us to act.

Luck should not determine a girl’s future. But for too many girls, a little luck is the difference between life and death. There are a great many individuals and groups on the ground working vigilantly to change that reality. But no matter how incredible the mission and the work planned by girl-focused organizations, if those organizations don’t have the necessary resources, even the best-laid and most creative plans will not happen. Less than 10 percent of all foundation giving in the United States goes to women and girls, and the numbers are even lower in Europe. We want to change that. We want to change it in a big way.

We believe in girls. And we stand as a community of women and men who give big toward the advancement of girls. Because the larger the investment, the larger the potential impact. While money alone cannot fix everything, the truth is that without it, few problems will be solved.

On this first Day of the Girl, we issue this challenge: Make giving to girls and women a philanthropic priority. To those with big capacity, give big. But don’t stop there. Bring all of your resources to bear. Leverage your influence and your networks in support of girls. Back online campaigns that advocate for healthy portrayals of girls and women. Challenge your company to achieve greater workforce diversity. Mentor a young woman in your community. There are countless ways to help girls at any income level. Do them.

Girls need big, bold funding, but they also need unflinching displays of solidarity and support. Let’s mark this day as a new beginning, and make a collective commitment to do something historic: Mobilize our resources to enable girls everywhere to thrive.

A better world for our girls – for all of us – is within reach. We hope you’ll join us in making that world a reality. Girls deserve it.

Jacki Zehner was in 1996 the youngest woman and first female trader to be made partner at Goldman Sachs. She now serves as CEO of Women Moving Millions, a community dedicated to mobilizing unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls around the world.

Margot Franssen is a Founding Board Member of Women Moving Millions, Founder of The Body Shop Canada until 2004  and she serves as Co-chair of the National Task Force on Human Trafficking of Canadian Girls and Young Women.