On girls and poverty

Did you know that, in the average “developing” country, when an educated girl earns income, she reinvests 90% of it in her family, compared to 35% for a boy?  And yet, and yet … less than one half of one percent of international aid money is directed at girls.

Certainly flips some of our instincts about “how to end poverty” on their head.  The pervasive culture of “short-term missions,” (which too often informs Messianic strategies for tikkun olam) totally ignores this reality.  What has been the model of faith-based engagement in “third world” poverty?  Often the requirement that volunteers raise inordinate sums of money from their peers to fly themselves into rural areas to build orphanages and schools.  (Which, P.S.: could be built MUCH MORE CHEAPLY by local laborers, providing employment in the process.)  The girls at Wronging Rights call this “selfish volunteering,” and its failure to produce results of lasting value to poor communities is staggering:

Selfish volunteering is huge. It starts young, with three-week service projects in hot, poor countries that can be neatly turned into college admissions essay. (1 part unawareness of own privilege + 1 part manual labor + 1 encounter with poor/sick/disabled native child just my age = admission to Oberlin.)

The success of investing in the education and entrepreneurial instincts of adolescent girls is undeniable … but decidedly less glamorous than hearing about white people popping malaria pills in preparation for their outreach to the “poor and helpless.” Turns out girls aren’t so helpless.  They’re just ineligible for education and small business loans.  Watch and learn.

About Monique

Chocoholic, jazz head ... prone to rants, and a professional pitbull. I married a terrific guy who happens to be a rabbi, so I guess that makes me a rebbetzin. Who saw that one coming? My grandparents survived the Shoah and spent their lives in the service of others. On my best days, I walk in their footsteps.
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