This inequality hurts us all. Delaying early marriage in the developing world by just a few years would add more than $500 billion to annual global economic output by 2030.
But this is more than a problem of lost income. For women and girls in poor countries, it cuts life short before it can flourish.
This month, 450,000 children under the age of five will die. This year, 151 million children will have their education and employment opportunities limited due to stunting. If current trends continue, 150 million more girls will be married by 2030.
Clearly, we need to accelerate progress so that no woman or child is left behind.
Global Financing Facility
But every year, in countries across the world, too many dreams are cut short: more than 5 million mothers and children die from preventable causes.
In this age of rapidly advancing technology, where there is a growing demand for complex cognitive skills and problem-solving, this crisis should be a wake-up call.
As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, there has never been a more critical time to invest in people, especially in women and girls.
Skills, knowledge, and know-how – collectively called human capital – have become an enormous share of global wealth, bigger than produced capital such as factories or industry, or natural resources.
But human capital wealth is not evenly distributed around the world, and it’s a larger slice of wealth as countries develop. How, then, can developing countries build their human capital and prepare for a more technologically demanding future?
The answer is they must invest much more in the building blocks of human capital – in nutrition, health, education, social protection, and jobs. And the biggest returns will come from educating and nurturing girls, empowering women, and ensuring that social safety nets increase their resilience.
According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – will never enter a classroom. Women’s participation in the global labor market is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men, and women’s labor force participation fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2016.
What if we could fix this?
: climate change, natural disasters, poverty, water scarcity, food insecurity, global displacement, conflict and violence. These are not the kinds of challenges that will go away on their own—they feed off one another and flourish. The world is responding with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which lay out a road map to building a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world—a better world.
Last week on World Population Day, I was thinking of the joy of children and the right of women to decide when to have them. It matters to women, but it matters to society as a whole. There can be no sustainable development without women’s empowerment, and there can be no women’s empowerment without access to comprehensive maternal and reproductive health services. Family planning is part of them.