What does investing in women and in their ability to advocate for themselves mean for the world? In Caribou, Maine, where I'm from, girls had two choices when they were growing up - who they would marry and how many children they would have. There were many "invisible women" who lacked access to resources, powerful female role models and, above all, choice. My mother encouraged me to advocate for myself and for those who felt invisible. As the CEO of WomanCare Global, a non-profit women's health company focused on delivering high-quality healthcare products, I believe that empowering women by ensuring their reproductive choice is critical for women who simply want to provide a better quality of life for their children and ultimately, themselves. On a global scale, an investment in female empowerment ensures healthier, wealthier and better educated communities.
Empowering girls may be the greatest strength we possess to redefine equality and fight social and economic inequities. By giving girls the tools to succeed as women, economies grow. Statistics from the World Bank show that closing the joblessness gap between girls and their male counterparts would yield an increase in GDP of up to 1.2 percent in a single year. Starting with access - to education, healthcare, and choice - we need to make a conscious decision to invest in women by ensuring they have the tools to invest in themselves.
At WomanCare Global, we are doing our crucial part to provide sustainable access to reproductive healthcare products in over 100 countries. Among women and girls in developing countries, affordability, school attendance and the stigma of menstruation persist as common themes; yet, access to menstrual products in the U.S. remains so commonplace. Research at Build Africa, a non-governmental organization, found that 29.7% of adolescent girls missed a minimum of four days of school during their period. WomanCare Global is committed to investing in girls in the developing world so they can achieve education and break the cycle of poverty. One way in which we are doing that is through the distribution of Softcup, an alternative to tampons that provides up to 12-hour period protection. Tampons, for example, are generally unavailable in those regions where the need is often greatest. Softcup helps to provide women a safe and dependable option, whereas previously, very few reliable and affordable products were offered. The use of this product in the developing world, and Africa in particular, is providing women and girls another option to overcome obstacles in their daily lives. Ultimately, we want to ensure that women in less developed countries have choice and access to the same resources as women in America.
Empowerment remains a critical investment that transcends generations. An educated girl is more likely to make sure her children are vaccinated, nourished and educated. This Women's Equality Day serves as a call to action for all to ignite women and girls to become catalysts of change and a voice in their communities. Charles Malik, a Lebanese philosopher and diplomat, said, "The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world." By building strength in our girls, we can mobilize the women of the world.
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