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Empowering Indian teenage girls Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Unlocking Girls’ Potential

Giving girls the skills and knowledge they need to become productive women who can participate in the twenty-first-century economy empowers them in all aspects of their lives. It is the right thing to do for global development – and for girls and women themselves.

NEW YORK – I recently visited a “girls club” – a safe space where adolescent girls come together with trained mentors to build their social networks and learn life skills – in the Tonk District of Rajasthan, India. As I arrived, I was greeted by a group of teenage girls bouncing along the road, so full of energy and laughter that I couldn’t help but smile, too. Just imagine, I thought, the potential of 600 million such girls.

History’s largest generation of girls aged 10-19 is here, ready to make its mark on the world. Governments, development organizations, and private institutions are eager to help them translate that youthful potential into an engine of creativity, economic growth, and social progress. But, on the path to such a future, girls continue to face major obstacles.

Some 170 million girls – almost one third of girls worldwide – are not enrolled in school. This is a major missed opportunity: for every year of forgone schooling, a girl’s potential income drops 10-20%. Yet there are major barriers to boosting school enrollment – beginning with the persistence of child marriage.

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