“The Girl Effect”

So here we are 2011, 4 years away from our Millennium Development Goals deadline to:

1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

2: Achieve universal primary education

3: Promote gender equality and empower women

4: Reduce child mortality rate

5: Improve maternal health

6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

7: Ensure environmental sustainability

8: Develop a global partnership for development

Ambitious? Yes. Impossible…No. In fact, 4 out of 8 of the goals can be achieved via a very simple shift in paradigms. A small change in our social focal lens can improve the way foreign aid is managed and allocated. A re-jig in past acts of community development is critical.And it all starts with investing in women.

There has been an exciting buzz around the notion of “the girl effect”. Studies have shown that of every dollar we invest in women living within poverty stricken areas, 90 cents will go towards her family and local community. Of that same dollar, men will invest a measly 30-40 cents. Given that women are typically (still) earning no more than 75% of the typical male wage, a serious discrepancy is evident.

Whilst already being a fairly strong advocate of women (as a whole), I was still overwhelmingly startled by this fact. What makes a woman care more about the future of her family and community? Is there some kind of innate biological investment which dictates the proceeding financial investment? Darwinism would suggest this is the case. But surely we have come a long way down that anthropological path, since primordial males left the cave and offspring for the women to tend to? Seemingly, there is more than trace elements leftover of female evolutionary compassion towards family and community.

Upon second glance, it seems that lots of not-for-profit organisations are clued up on this. And no surprises what ratio these said organisations are founded and or run primarily by women. There are countless initiatives and advocating campaigns from the usual do-gooding culprits such as Care Australia, Global Giving,Women Aid and so on. But what really struck me as odd was when comsumersitic giant Coca Cola also jumped on the proverbial band wagon, embracing this ideal with their campaign “5 by 2020″. This crusade is set out to empower 5 million women by 2020 (as the title would suggest). However they intend to achieve this alleged ” empowerment” by providing business opportunities to women in developing nations. One guess what business these opportunities exist within.That’s right…the soft-drink business…more specifically, the Coca Cola business. So basically these corporate monkeys are encouraging women to work at advertising an obesity-causing- addictive product, high in fructose corn syrup and caffeine to children and families alike. While being a world leader in adding millions of tons of plastic into landfill. So in a nutshell, women (who wouldn’t otherwise be working) will now be given the ability to act in the same ill-advised, obtuse, greedy and prolific way men have been behaving since the beginning of the industrial revolution.Something is not quite right here.

Now I know what you are thinking, because initially I was thinking the very same thought… don’t be so cynical…this could be a good thing right? They are offering something admirable to women who would otherwise not have the right or access to employment.They are essentially providing an income for families who would be living below the poverty line. But let’s not forget the context of those aforementioned millennium goals. Nowhere amongst these specific aims does it read:” increase productivity of Coca Cola sales” or “improve likability of the Coca Cola brand” and finally “bring Coca Cola to a country not yet stocking the products”. Lets face it, asides from sprucing up the dusty corporate responsibility portfolio, these are the set out hopes for the “5 by 2020″ project.No adorned marketing team or thought-provoking back-up music is going to change this. For all those out there actually supporting the true purpose of “The Girl Effect”…keep up the good work. For those who are using it as a blatantly obvious marketing tool for your malevolent, humanity-destroying-brand…we can see right through you.

For more information of “The Girl Effect” check out:


Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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