The claim sounds impossibly hyped: “Adolescent girls are the most powerful force for change on the planet.” Wouldn’t the most powerful force be, say, the US military? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? But then that’s a simplistic notion of power, built on might and money. Girl Effect is talking about a different power source: the unlimited one called potential, fueled by strength and character. There is probably no more prominent example of this kind of female adolescent power than Malala Yousafzai, the young girl from Afghanistan shot by the Taliban for demanding an education. So let’s revisit the idea of power: it wasn’t the US Military in Afghanistan or a foundation like the Gates’ that created the opportunity for Malala to win an education–it was Malala herself and her family and local support network. The idea behind Girl Effect is to help build that support for adolescent girls all over the globe, especially in poverty-stricken areas. An army of Malalas may result and then the claim would make perfect sense.
Girl Effect was created by the Nike Foundation, in collaboration with the NoVo Foundation, United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. (The Nike lineage may account for the echoes of another hype-heavy recipe for success: Just Do It.) Nike, it would seem, is perfectly positioned to help. It’s been accused in the past of tolerating difficult and dangerous conditions for workers in its developing world factories, but has taken aggressive steps to correct the problems–in the process meeting the satisfaction of numerous international organizations. So Nike knows the landscapes where Girl Effect hopes to have the most impact. The mission is aided by a salutary fact: any encounter with an adolescent girl will immediately prove one thing–there’s power there. Check out the size of the network here.