January 31, 2010

World Leaders Put Girls at the Center of Solutions at Davos

Discussion at WEF annual meeting moves the needle forward for adolescent girls worldwide.

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND (01 February, 2010) — More than 100 leaders representing major businesses, governments, and nonprofits around the globe joined forces at Davos to bring girls to the forefront and move from acknowledgment of girls’ issues to active measures that can be implemented across sectors to ensure that adolescent girls around the world will no longer be overlooked.

A diverse mix of Fortune 500 executives, global leaders, and girl advocates attended the jam-packed Setting the Stage for the Girl Effect session at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. After a very successful session at last year’s annual meeting, where global leaders realized that adolescent girls lie at the center of solutions in developing countries, this year’s focus was how to actualize these changes across all sectors.

Panelists actively discussed the key resources that are overlooked at different stages of a girl’s life, pondered the dire consequences of not investing in girls, and developed strategies on how to reduce poverty, accelerate sustainable economies, and improve global health.

The panel’s recommendations for developing countries to move forward toward progress include: enforcement of key laws by governments, development of specific strategies for girls by civil society groups, and the creation of real economic opportunities for girls by businesses.

“If you want to get the biggest return on investment in development, invest in girls, invest in the girl effect,” said Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer-winning columnist for The New York Times and moderator of the session.

 “This workshop is a critical step toward a larger goal of impacting real change for girls,” said Maria Eitel, president of the Nike Foundation. “It is the starting point from which we must look to develop concrete action plans that outline strategies for including girls in all sectors.”

Mallika Sarabhai, a well-known activist and performer from India and a discussion leader at the workshop, noted the intense energy among panelists at the session and the excitement around making positive change for adolescent girls. “We must translate that [energy] into synergies across the world and across all sectors, very quickly,” said Sarabhai. “Each of us who [attended the workshop] has to think about and push strategies surrounding our daily lives.”

Another discussion leader, Kate Roberts, founder of YouthAIDS and vice-president of PSI, also noted the excitement in the room and the great strides made at the session. “What I’m encouraged by is that we’re really going to bring this to life now and put a human face on it. We’ve had the sessions in the board room and now we need to hear from the girls themselves and, for me, that’s the most exciting thing — that we can expose these thought leaders with the actual human face of this.”

Roberts and other panelists at the session discussed numerous issues facing adolescent girls in developing countries, from being raped while walking to school to being unable to attend school because of the lack of something as basic as sanitary pads. They also tackled ways to ensure that girls are on the global development agenda and have the resources they need, access to those resources, and the opportunity to truly participate in society.

Tshepiso Gower, 19, a WEF Global Changemaker from Botswana, noted the unique economic forces and pressures that girls face and urged other girls and communities to help at-risk girls make good decisions.

Among the themes that emerged during the workshop were the need for collaboration between government, civil society and business and the urgency to change the economic equation from girls being a burden to girls being a powerful force for change.

“Everyone who comes across this topic the way that it was presented [at the workshop] becomes instantly and inexorably engaged,” said Dan Shine, president of the 50 x 15 Foundation and a participant at the workshop. “The key is to get that same messaging to more people and, most importantly, it’s to create a set of measured, actionable activities that people can take on on an individual basis or as a group.”

The workshop featured a distinguished panel of global leaders from government, business, and civil society. Discussion leaders included:  Sir Fazle H. Abed, Founder and Chairperson, BRAC Nigel Chapman, Chief Executive Officer, Plan International Rick Goings, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Tupperware Brands Corporation Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley Tshepiso Gower, Global Changemaker, British Council Global Changemaker Tumi Makgabo, Founder and Executive Producer, Tumi & Co. Carolyn B. Maloney, Congresswoman from New York (D), 14th District Kate Roberts, Vice-President, PSI; Founder, YouthAIDS, YouthAIDS/PSI Mallika Sarabhai, Director, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts

About the Nike Foundation, NIKE, Inc. and the NoVo Foundation The Nike Foundation (www.nikefoundation.org) invests exclusively in adolescent girls as the most powerful force for change and poverty alleviation in the developing world. The Foundation’s investments are designed to get girls on the global agenda and drive resources to them. The work of the Nike Foundation is supported by Nike, Inc. and the NoVo Foundation, a collaboration that has significantly broadened the impact of the girl effect.   About girleffect.org girleffect.org (www.girleffect.org) tells the story of girls creating a ripple impact of social and economic change on their families, communities and nations. The work of the Girl Effect is driven by girl champions around the globe. The Nike Foundation created the Girl Effect with significant financial and intellectual contributions by the NoVo Foundation and Nike, Inc. and in collaboration with key partners such as the United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.