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5 Reasons I’m Optimistic About the Future of Our Girls

Melinda Gates
Oct 11, 2016 · 3 min read

On International Day of the Girl, we recognize the unique challenges millions of girls face. And we celebrate the ways in which girls change the world when they overcome these challenges. I’m feeling especially celebratory this year because I believe the future for girls is brighter than ever. Here are five reasons why.

1. World Leaders Are Listening

Women’s and girls’ empowerment is no longer on the global agenda — it is the global agenda. When world leaders met at the United Nations headquarters in New York City last month, they advocated for gender equality with an energy I’d never seen before, and I’ve been attending these meetings for about a decade now. One highlight was the more than $2 billion pledged by organizations, businesses, and governments to improve the health and well-being of women and girls around the world.

2. We’re Closing the Gender Data Gap

Data is the theme of this year’s Day of the Girl. The word “data” makes some people’s eyes glaze over, but I proudly describe myself as a data geek. I’ve seen that what gets measured gets done. So to me, data isn’t numbers on a screen; it’s progress in people’s lives. The lack of good data about women and girls makes it impossible to know whether the world is meeting its ambitions on gender equality. But that’s beginning to change. Australia and the United States are supporting gender data initiatives, and our foundation is investing $80 million to improve the way data is collected and used. The goal is a full picture of important facets of women’s lives, such as how they use their time, how much unpaid work they do, and how they support themselves economically.

3. We’re Investing in Adolescents

The largest generation of young people in human history is coming of age. As a mother of teenagers, I know how important this life stage is. I also know how difficult it can be. New, creative programs are empowering young women to find their voice and realize their potential. South Africa’s Girls Achieve Power, for example, uses sports to help girls build self-esteem and to provide a safe space for discussing pressing issues like HIV, teen pregnancy, and sexual violence.

4. Girls Are Helping Girls

Sometimes only adolescents can fully understand the pressures their peers are under and what information and support they really need. To tap into these insights, our foundation is supporting Adolescents 360, an initiative aimed at expanding access to contraceptives for young women and their partners in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Nigeria. We’re funding programs that are designed, researched, and implemented by young people, for young people, to respond to their specific needs and combat the stigma and misinformation that can prevent them from accessing contraceptives.

5. Girls Are Becoming Heroes and Role Models

The courage, tenacity, and optimism of young leaders like Malala Yousafzai, who risked her life to stand up for a girl’s right to education, never cease to inspire me. I’ve been honored to meet amazing, emerging leaders like Anoyara Khatun, who was trafficked from her village in West Bengal and now campaigns passionately for children’s rights, and Ann Mitu, a young mother who is championing family planning in Kenya.

The more energy and idealism I see from young people around the world, and the more world leaders I see putting women and girls at the heart of everything they do, the more convinced I am that women and girls will transform all of our futures.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Thoughtful conversations on building a better world.

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