The Gender Accelerator

The Stanford Social Innovation Review

It costs only $25 per woman per year to save millions of lives, according to a recent UN-backed report by the Guttmacher Institute on reproductive health services in developing countries. The research shows that the low cost needed to cover contraception services, pregnancy and newborn care, and HIV care to prevent mother-to-child transmission would significantly reduce maternal and newborn deaths. Unfortunately, current funding levels for these services—$18 billion annually—cover less than half of the amount needed to make that a reality.

The funding gap for women and girls worldwide is hardly new. World Bank research shows that only two cents of every dollar in international aid funding goes to support programs for girls. In 2010, women’s and girls’ rights organizations around the world had a combined income of $106 million, while Greenpeace made $309 million the same year—nearly three times as much.

This is despite the fact that women and girls are one of the most marginalized groups on Earth, and have the most potential to produce economic growth. When working, women invest 90 percent of their income back into their families (compared to men, who invest only 30-40 percent), creating a “multiplier effect” that boosts social and economic outcomes for their communities. For every year that a girl is in school, her future income level increases, as does the country’s GDP. The numbers don’t lie: There’s a clear return on investment when we put women’s and girls’ lives at the forefront.