The Case for Holistic Investment in Girls

Improving Lives, Realizing Potential, Benefitting Everyone
Leave no one behind. That was the promise made by governments and international civil society in their commitments to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. With less than a decade to go it is clear that, if we continue on our current trajectory, we will fall far short of those goals.

One challenge is the lack of high-quality and inclusive data enabling us to measure our successes and failures. Globally. women and girls are consistently left out of data collection and analysis. We lack the data to monitor 80 percent of the indicators for SDG 5 on Gender Equality, and only 13 percent of countries dedicate any resources to compiling statistics on gender. Girls and adolescents are even more invisible, as most official sources only collect data about girls and women aged 15-49.

This crucial knowledge gap inspired Citi and Plan International to partner and create one of the most holistic data sets yet on the economic and social benefits of investing in adolescent girls and young women. These investments yield triple societal benefits: for girls today; for the adults they will be tomorrow; and for the next generation raised by empowered parents.

Existing research on the economic benefits of investing in girls has taken a siloed approach, focusing largely on individual sectors such as education and health. By investing in these sectors, there is proof we can increase economic returns for the individual as well as national GDP. We argue in this report that a comprehensive and fully-costed series of interventions allowing economies to attain 100 percent upper secondary school completion rates for girls by 2030, could lift GDP in emerging economies by 10 percent on average compared to a business-as-usual scenario. Even greater economic returns would be observed beyond 2030, as the benefits are strongly cumulative. The results are staggering, especially when faced with the consequences of inaction.

Compared to existing studies, we believe the special value of our collaboration is that it brings together in one place the economic and social cases for investing in girls, as well as a multi-component intervention strategy ranging beyond just education, health, and economic empowerment. The analytical framework we created dives deeply into data from eight countries and suggests which combinations of interventions are most appropriate in which settings. Imagine the potential benefits if we could take an integrated approach to investing in girls and young women in all areas of their lives.

Making change happen is complex. We argue in this report that structured collaboration between governments, the private sector, NGOs, and philanthropic institutions is paramount to tackling the barriers facing girls. If stakeholders operate in siloes, change will still take place — but it will be achieved at greater cost, with lower impact, and over a longer timeframe. There is no time to waste.

Click here to view the report in full.

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