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World Economic Forum Gives Adolescent Girls a Voice on the Global Stage

World Economic Forum Gives Adolescent Girls a Voice on the Global Stage

Published 01-30-09

Submitted by Nike Inc.

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND. - 30 January, 2009 - With an agenda focused almost exclusively on the global financial crisis, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting program today will feature its first-ever plenary session focused on adolescent girls.

A safe, healthy, educated, economically empowered girl has the power to solve poverty and ignite progress as an economic actor and future mother.  With the right opportunities, she alone will unleash the girl effect. She will marry later, have fewer children, and invest nearly all of her income back into her family. Yet today, less than half a cent of every international development dollar is spent on her. 

"Including girls in this year's agenda marks a real turning point in the world's understanding of adolescent girls" potential contribution to their own communities and to the global economy," said Mark Parker, President and CEO of NIKE, Inc. "When given an opportunity to participate, girls are a powerful force for social and economic change. That's exactly what we need right now."

The session, entitled The Girl Effect on Development, will be moderated by Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE USA. Panelists include:

  • Melinda French Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank
  • Mari Pangestu, Minister of Trade of Indonesia    
  • Mark G. Parker, Chief Executive Officer, NIKE, Inc.; Co-Chair of the Governors Meeting for Consumer Industries 2009
  • Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Chair, Global Agenda Council on the Welfare of Children
  • Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank; Board Member of the United Nations Foundation
Panelists will explore the dearth of investment in adolescent girls in developing countries, which economists have called "an irrational investment gap." They will discuss the potential multi-trillion-dollar impact of girls on national economies, the economic cost of not investing, and the impact of these investments on developed economies.

"We'll never be able to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty if we do not address the issues girls face," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank.  "Directing resources to address gender equity, universal education, child and maternal health is a start, but the success of reaching every goal is dependent on the critical wellbeing, safety and participation of world's girls."

In India, for example, adolescent pregnancy results in nearly $100 billion in lost potential income over a lifetime. That's equal to the world's total humanitarian assistance over the last 17 years combined. However, innovative organizations like Going to School are showing girls in India a world of possibilities beyond early marriage and early child-bearing. Their "Be! an Entrepreneur" Fund inspires girls to create businesses that solve the social, economic and environmental problems they face in their daily lives.

With little more than one half a cent of every international development dollar going to girls, there is a desperate and immediate need to increase funding to programs that unleash the girl effect and enable girls to achieve their potential. Early champions, including the UN Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Nike Foundation and many others, have helped drive this issue to the forefront. Saturday's session is a critical step in building global attention and investment. However, much more must be done for families, communities and nations to benefit from the potential of girls.

The session will address what others can do to invest in girls as well as the importance of reaching girls in early adolescence "“ before they are faced with the issues that derail a healthy and prosperous trajectory. These include a range of factors that can take a girl away from school including early marriage, early pregnancy, household chores, caregiving for family members and HIV/AIDS.

The Girl Effect on Development will be open to the media. It is scheduled on 31 January, 10:15 "“ 11:15 in the Congress Centre (Sanada 1+2).

The proceedings will also be available for viewing via Webcast at the URL below shortly after the session.

About tells the story of girls creating a ripple impact on their families, communities and nations, provides the tools for girl champions to spread the word and is a catalyst for increased investment for girls. The Nike Foundation led the creation of with critical financial and intellectual collaboration of partners including the NoVo Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls.

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Nike Inc.

Nike Inc.

NIKE, Inc. based near Beaverton, Oregon, is the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. Wholly-owned NIKE subsidiaries include Converse Inc., which designs, markets and distributes athletic lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories and Hurley International LLC, which designs, markets and distributes surf and youth lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories. For more information, visit

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