Are there more males or females in our world today?
The answer - males - surprises most people, even those in global affairs and development working to advance gender equality and women's empowerment.
Our planet gives birth - and life - to more boys than girls. 105 boys for every 100 girls. Though this seems insignificant at first glance, a deeper look will reveal its global impact. In fact, we can see more clearly how it's fueling violence and extremism that is exploding right now.
Gender preference and discrimination has resulted in 62 million more males than females on our planet. That is, if we created a new country with just the extra males, it would be the 24th largest, just behind the United Kingdom in population.
Now adding to our male majority planet is also the explosion of young people. The largest youth population ever in history, 90 percent are in the poorest parts of the world. For example, nearly 75 percent of Nigeria is younger than 30. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it's nearly 70 percent. And just about all of Syria is young, with a median age of 23.
This is a ticking time bomb and it's not simply because they are poor economically. These young people are also in societies where freedom and development of greatest human potential is shut down instead of encouraged and inspired.
Knowing these two global realities, then, it is no surprise that violence and terrorism is fueling our world. Fear mongers like ISIS and Boko Haram have a massive recruiting force of young men while enslaving young women to propagate their state. They are not interested in a chump change endeavor. They are exploiting the largest population ever of disenfranchised youth - controlling their mind - in order to spread their warped ideology, proliferating a movement.
It is truly a dark but brilliant strategy to dominate the world.
The time is now to change course. Together, we can change this apocalyptic future by igniting a counter force and a movement - one that is based on freedom, aspiration and empowerment of the human spirit. And to make rapid progress, we must strategically target adolescent girls and young women.
Investing in girls yields the single highest return. This has been affirmed by the World Bank, particularly in the developing world. Educated girls have healthier children, educate their children and provide for their families. For each year of primary education a girl completes, she earns an additional 10 to 20 percent. After secondary education, she brings home 15 to 25 percent more income. And notably, she shares 90 percent of her income with her family and community, compared to a young man who shares a maximum of 30 to 40 percent.
The evidence is overwhelming. It is why UN agencies, donor countries and global development organizations are now beginning to focus on girls. Girls are key to ending poverty. They are also critical to nation building in the exact areas where terrorism thrives. Girls are the most impactful solution to poverty and violence.
Investing in girls has the greatest impact in building strong and stable communities, resilient and peaceful civil societies.
However to truly make progress, we must tackle one great hurdle - the deep-seated mindset around the globe that does not value girls. Girls are seen and treated in many cultures as human "trash." This is at the root of all girls' sufferings - child marriage, slavery, sex trafficking, rape, weapon of war, and oppression by terrorists.
If you think only strangers perpetrate violence against girls, think again. More than 100 million girl babies have been killed, aborted, and neglected to die... by their parents. It is how we got to where we are today - 62 million more males than females on the planet.
Like ISIS, we must realize the power of the mind. We must take action to transform the chronic and insidious mindset that sees girls as valueless. We must work together to develop and unleash our greatest human resource - one billion girls on our planet who are empowered to change their world, future leaders who will transform the world.
Realizing the power of the mind to ignite a movement is not new. The visionary leader and peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi, profoundly noted, "Thoughts become your actions, which become your values, your destiny."
Let's take action now to show the terrorists and the world what is possible - empowered girls who are creating and leading change right now, ending poverty, countering terrorism...and making the world safer and more secure for us all.
Empowering girls is transformative action. This is truly revolutionary thinking.