By Emily Raben
The recession is affecting more than we think.
As the financial crisis gets worse, greater numbers of girls in developing countries feel pressure to drop out of school and work to help support their families. This puts all of the progress made in global economic growth and women’s rights at risk.
More than 500 million girls in developing countries are unable to aid their economy, because they are not invested in. They have no education or worthwhile economic trades. This lack of investment, means a lack in economic growth.
The girls who do drop out of school are susceptible to unsafe work environments and are paid little. Most of these jobs include domestic work, or agricultural and factory jobs. The women in these countries are first to get fired when the economy is suffering and because of this, many turn to child labour or are forced into the sex trade. Each year, one million children are forced into prostitution, or sold for sexual purposes by their families.
Domestic jobs are regarded as safe, but often girls are exploited physically, mentally and sexually. Even in factory jobs, young women feel pressured to succumb to sexual advances made by their bosses, in order to keep their jobs.
Countries with the lowest numbers of girls in education lie at the bottom of the development tables. According to Plan UK, an extra year of education increases a girl’s income by 10 to 20 per cent and is an imperative step in breaking the cycle of poverty. The education of girls improves their lives, their future children’s lives, creates a more prosperous community and workforce, and eventually a wealthier nation.
A study done by the Nike Foundation estimates that adolescent pregnancies cost Kenya’s economy $500 million each year, while investing in girls would potentially add $3.2 billion to their economy.
If the economy continues to suffer, even more girls will find themselves falling into traps, that prevent them from becoming valuable and healthy members of society. Lack of proper nutrition, early pregnancy, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and lack of education, are all factors which are hard for girls in developing countries to avoid. By investing in their future, and helping them get a proper education, these girls can live up to their potential.