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Forbes Takes On Girls And Poverty

Girls get just 2 cents of every development dollar

The Internet is abuzz over Forbes Rich List 2011, checking out who’s who among the billionaires of the world. Forbes had another interesting story out this week, though, about the world’s poorest people.

For International Women’s Day, they offered up an editorial on why focusing on women and girls might not really be the best strategy to end worldwide poverty. Their evidence was pretty slim though: they cited some critics concerns that women are being caricatured as stable and responsible while men come off as cartoonish thugs, wasting their earnings at pubs while their hard-working wives and daughters better the family and community.

That’s an unpleasant picture, for sure. It’s not social stereotypes drawing those cartoons, though. It’s data.

Or is it? Forbes claims that many of the dearly held beliefs about the power of women and girls as agents of social change are merely myths. According to the critics, women don’t really put more of their earnings back into the family, nor do they have better credit when given microloans.

Another myth: Forbes notion that girls and women are getting too much attention from development programs. According to Time Magazine:

Less than 2¢ of every development dollar goes to girls — and that is a victory compared with a few years ago, when it was more like half a cent.

That means that 50% of the people are sharing just 2% of the resources available. I don’t know if Forbes’ critics of the power of girls to change poverty are more or less trustworthy than the cheerleaders for girls as change agents I wrote about last week. But it seems clear that women and girls are not getting an unfair advantage from development programs that lavish only 2% of their resources on them.

Photo: woody1778a

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