The Girl Effect

Post written by Chris Spagnuolo. Follow Chris on Twitter 55 comments

The Girl Effect: The powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.  This is an amazing presentation and deeply profound. I hope after you watch it, you’re moved to action. And I hope you see that less is more when it comes to presentation design.

11/05/2008 UPDATE: Lots of people have emailed me asking how they can help and make a difference.  My recommendation is to check out Kiva: Loans that Change Lives.  Kiva lets you lend to a specific “entrepreneur” in the developing world, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.

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  1. Melanie Marsh said,

    Absolutely fabulous! Loved it! TFS (Thanks for sharing!)!

  2. Kim Causey Manos said,

    I had read about it months ago then recently watched it with a room of about 30 co-workers. You could have heard a pin drop – dead silence as we watched in awe. Many of us have been profoundly inspired!

  3. Francisco Moreno said,

    Have you read Muhammad Yunus’ book Banking for the Poor? He begun lending small amounts of money to the poorest people in Bangladesh, and later on created the Gramine bank that has made so much to dignify people’s lives by giving them credit and opportunity.

    He explains how destitute women made a better use of the money, have higher percentage of loan repay, helped improve the family, kids education, house repairs, etc. More and much better, in general, than men.

    In Yunus experience it’s the woman effect. Helping women has a greater impact on society… but we all new this already… right?

  4. Kim Proctor said,

    This is terrific, thanks for sharing. Very inspiring.

  5. Jackson Briggs said,

    Yep, that is super. Nice to see it discussed here.

  6. Cortney Matz said,

    Wow. Thanks for sharing – the music totally makes this video. I personally love the less-is-more style of the graphics, but you gotta have great music.

  7. Sharon Charteress said,

    I loved this, it is so simple that the message is clear. Very effective at causing action. Even in the western world it can be heard for a girls ideas to be heard, it makes me realise how lucky we are and how we can help change the world into a better place.

  8. Zan Vyas said,

    Hope all believe in that. Love it!

  9. Cholena Pegues said,

    This ROCKS! Simple and sweet (perfect timing btw), clean and dynamic. Best of all it elucidates the single most important point for our time, the one solution that addresses human suffering on a grand scale. Cheers to you! I passed this along to many people!

  10. Brandy Nagel said,

    This is a charming presentation. Love it.

  11. Xavier Wastyn said,

    A through message. Very well done.

  12. Tatiana Captari said,

    Thank you very much for this video. Really motivating.I will send it further to my friends. It is we who change the world!!!

  13. Brett Holcomb said,

    Very nice. Excellent use of music as well.

  14. Gayanna Magcosta said,

    excellent presentation. very effective, and without having to use videos, or any art other than typography. beautiful.

    if it inspired, you … invest in a girl … or a man at !

    If you want to follow who I’m investing in, use my email: livelovelaugh@

  15. Amanda Rusch said,

    Absolutely amazing. Stunningly simple.

  16. Karishma Shetty said,

    Thank you for sharing this video!
    It’s very inspiring.

  17. Erin Lariviere said,

    Amazing – I hope this inspires people to take action!

    Francisco – have you ever checked out ? It’s a non-profit micro-financing organization that helps people in the developing world get business loans – many of them women. Anyone can become a lender at Kiva. It’s a really awesome experience!

  18. Maria Sushkova said,

    Thank you! Absolutely great!! This minimalism looks very creative and really stands out…

  19. Juliana Swenson said,

    Wow! Well done! I sent it to all my friends.

  20. Patti J Ryan said,

    Awesome! Profoundly inspiring! This is why I support a non-profit micro-financing organization that helps people in the developing world get business loans – many of them women. (

  21. Dwayne Waite Jr said,


  22. PJ Ryan said,

    High-quality, excellently produced short video; Profoundly inspiring! This is why I support a non-profit micro-financing organization that helps people in the developing world get business loans – many of them women. ( ).

  23. Stevie Wilson said,

    GREAT video. Let’s also apply it here in the US– because there are still situations in blighted urban areas where girls & women have little power– and no opportunity. Let’s help women learn that they can be standing on their own & do well.
    For a lot of women, they don’t know how or where to go to get started or getting started is so overwhelming and daunting . Just wrapping their head around it to get started. The “getting in and doing well in school; being able to have the bucks to finish with a degree is a major feat . Then finding the money to start a business and making that grow– particularly in this economy — is going to be more than just a struggle.

    However I have to say the video has power and I will blog about it.

  24. Yvette Forty said,

    Absolutely wonderful! Great use of typography, timing, color and sound all with a great message. I am going to have my daughter watch this, very inspiring.

  25. dwayneWa (dwayneWa) said,

    Watch this: Incredible. Save a girl; save humanity:

  26. Robin Greaves said,

    Sorry, but I’m going to be the odd one out here Chris, while respecting your aims in posting this.

    The basic tenet of the clip is: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day teach a man to fish and you feed him for his life”. That is as undoubtedly true now as it has always been. Added to this for me is the fact that “Give a girl a cow” – seems no different than “Give a boy a cow”! Or give a village a cow. It’s probably petty to point out that you need a minimum of two to start a herd.

    This is not “The Girl Effect”, though IMHO that is exactly what the world does need. What this presentation is about is microfinance and that is what Kiva is about as far as I understand it.

    Also there are simple problems with this simple solution to mankind’s problems. For instance: every girl/boy/person, in a village with a limited grazing area, can’t have a herd of cattle each. The quality of the grazing and the availability of water can be a larger problem than availability of livestock. In addition to this the other villagers might not all be that keen in the long term about this particular girl becoming the source of the village’s wealth. Besides these and many other practical issues, as far as I am aware most people live in urban complexes not in rural areas these days anyway.

    The great problems in the world are not the result of billions of unbelievably stupid people not being able to apply elementary lessons. They are the result of the complex social interaction of human beings with their complex internal worlds.

    Kiva = great.
    Give A Girl A Cow = trite and mawkish rehash of the idea of charity solving social crisis.

    IMHO this sort of thing is actually a part of the problem. Firstly both because it convices us that buying a cow or a share in a cow means we’ve “done our bit”, and that our small role as a member of a democratic superpower is completed. Secondly it makes us believe that the answers are simple, as sweet as the soundtrack, and comfortable for all concerned.

    Change is always uncomfortable because it is change. Try folding your arms the other way around. It’s annoying until you get accustomed to it. Resistance to significant change is extremely hard to overcome, at personal, organisational and cultural levels. This is even when all concerned are desperate for change and appear to be in perfect harmony wanting the same change. There are also a lot of us in the world who, at least until we get it, think that all we really want or need is more power.

    Being in denial of basic human drives in favour of a sentimental philosophy is to be blind. However comfortable this blindness may feel, like Zaphod Beeblebronx’s glasses, in the end we walk into walls and hurt ourselves, often quite badly. That for me is the lesson of the 60′s and 70′s aid programmes.


  27. Kim Le Sueur said,

    thanks for sharing

  28. Fred Showker said,

    Love it… will pass along.

    Milk Makes a Meaningful Gift
    The gift of a Milk Menagerie represents a quality-breed heifer, two goats and a water buffalo – four milk-producing animals for hardworking families hoping to provide a better life for their children.
    With training for recipient families, each animal in the Menagerie will produce gallon after gallon of wonderful, life-sustaining milk. And as the families “pass on the gift” of offspring to neighbors in need, over time a Milk Menagerie will end hunger and despair one child, one family and one village at a time.

    Last year I was proud to sponsor a $1,000.00 Milk Menagerie in the 2007/2008 Heifer program

    This year we’re planning again — this time, one dollar donated for each new subscriber to DTG during November and December. (Last year about 900, but we upped it to $1,000)

  29. Spencer Mahar said,

    You could almost swear there were images or footage in that spot… just type.

  30. Lisa Schell said,

    i enjoyed this. thank you!

  31. James Bremner said,

    That’s how to deliver a message. The timing in it is superb.

  32. Matt Mattus said,

    Wow, so very well done I had to share it with many friends.

  33. Jocelyn Bernard said,

    yep, truly good, simple and efficient.

  34. Thomas Anderson said,

    Where do I sign-up, I have a young Daughter (9) and I am going to show this to her class.


    as always thank you for sharing.


  35. Laura Thompson said,

    loved it. thanks for sharing. Great emotional connection using basic typography, simple color, and music.

  36. Francisco Moreno said,

    Great , I didn’t know about it. Thanks Erin!

  37. Francisco Moreno said,

    I saw the “Team Obama” that already raised $100K+ for Kiva’s entrepreneurs (I don’t know whether there is a real endorsement by him).

    The success of the Gramine bank comes from the fact that the money is lent for an interest, and the bank makes a profit that is reinvested in more loans. It follows the rule of the three P’s for sustainable businesses: PEOPLE, PLANET, and PROFITS. You can only continue doing the good if you survive.

    Now, if Kiva doesn’t generate a return, it won’t be more than another channel for charity, and will always depend on the ability and willingness of generous people to donate. On the other hand, if there is a return on the loan, although minimal, it might use “greed” to do even more good… sustainable capitalism (?).

    This is food for thought, and for spirited debate. What do you think, Pro Marketers?

    Finally, you might be interested in reading “We Need Sustainable Capitalism. Nature does not do bailouts” By Al Gore and David Blood in (Nov 5, 2008).

    Enough for today :-)

  38. juxta (juxta) said, – The Girl Effect

  39. Rocio Davis said,

    Simple and amazing! Thank you!

  40. Patricia Enright said,

    Nice video–thanks!!
    Check out this wonderful non-profit that’s doing exactly what your video advocates–they’re building a school for girls in Tanzania!
    I’ve been there and met the girls–what a difference this education is making in their lives! Here’s the site:

  41. Patricia Enright said,

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the video. To answer the question “Why girls”, consider these statistics:
    –In parts of sub-saharan Africa, only 1 in 5 girls gets an education
    –women who get schooling share their earnings while men tend to keep a 1/3 or 1/2 to themselves
    –When girls go to school, they tend to marry later and have fewer, healthier babies
    –when girls get an education, they are three times less likely to contract HIV/AIDS


    And here’s a FANTASTIC organization that’s building a school for girls, just for these reasons. Check out their video and website. We CAN make a difference in their lives!

    Thanks again for the video!

  42. Dawn Tripp said,


    Yes, Yes, and YES. I have nothing against giving boys and men opportunities, but I am familiar with the statistics you shared. I am the president of a nonprofit that provides medical and educational assistance to four very poor barrios in Jinotega, Nicaragua. The educational assistance focuses on girls, starting when they’re old enough to go to school. My goal is to get them through high school… and some even go on to college. That beats having a baby at 15 any day!

    Unemployment and underemployment is very high in Nica. Some ask, Why bother to educate these girls if they’ve a slim chance of getting a job commensurate with their ability? I say: Would you rather be poor and educated, or poor and uneducated?

    It’s about opportunity, which poor women are proven to take on in a way that positively impacts a wider circle.

  43. Sam Lee said,

    Here are a couple other blog entries talking about the girl effects, primarily from communication perspective.

    The second blog wokai, is doing person-to-person lending in a way similar to kiva, with a focus on China (where kiva at present has difficulties to break in due to legal/regulatory constraints, in addition to India, Russia, Brazil, etc.)

  44. Crayton Silsby said,

    “women who get schooling share their earnings while men tend to keep a 1/3 or 1/2 to themselves ” which means that… men tend to share too (from half to 2/3)?
    and “In parts of sub-saharan Africa, only 1 in 5 girls gets an education.” Do you know what the rate is for boys?

  45. Patricia Enright said,

    Hi Crayton,
    Thanks for your comment. The article doesn’t state the rate for boys, but I’m sure you can find the exact info out there if you do some poking around. (It does say that 60% of the children who aren’t in school are girls).

    It’s a sad fact that in many cultures women and girls are second class citizens. They simply don’t get the opportunities that boys and men receive–including education. And many studies show that when communities have women at decision-making tables that healthcare, education, etc (things that benefit *everyone*) tend to improve.

    That’s why it’s important that girls have equal access to education.

    Best wishes,

    PS Keeping 1/3 to 1/2 of earnings can be a substantial amount if the other 1/2 must be split between the rest of a large family. For example, if a family of 6 (not uncommon in a developing country) had an income of $20 per month, if the husband kept $10 to himself, it would leave very little for the other six people who had to share the remaining $10. Also, in many cases, it’s the wife who earns the income. Can you imagine spending 8 hours selling vegetables by the side of the road, only to have 1/2+ of your income taken by your spouse and sometimes spent on beer? Incredible, but it happens. (I have spent time volunteering in Africa)

    Not trying to slam men or boys here, just trying to show what women/girls are up against, and why they need education to give them a livelihood better than selling vegetables.

  46. Sharad Bhargava said,

    I agree education of girls will be an enormous enabler.
    I dont buy the education –> cow, I would sell it
    with the points that Patricia made.


  47. Aykan Gulten said,

    I am sorry Robin,
    But I think you are missing the point here by talking about not enough space for cows for everyone. This is not suggesting that every girl should have a “cow”. It is just an example. The big story is that if you empower girls, they will become the engine of social change. In another case, it could be a “sewing machine” or “equipment to cook and sell soup” or something else. The point is Girl Effect not the cow…

  48. Karen Lund said,

    Excellent video.

    I think the significance of the “girl effect” is that education and literacy have risen faster for boys than for girls. Even in the “third world,” boys are catching up to developed countries, but girls lag. Patricia and others make good points about girls who attend school marrying later, having fewer but healthier children, and–as the video states–being respected in their families and communities.

    For another take on the value of education, especially but not exclusively for girls, read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (if you haven’t already). I read it for the first time recently and was particularly struck by the beautiful young women who were among the first in their villages to receive an education. Their photographs exude a quiet confidence in themselves and the future.

    PS: I made my first Kiva loan early this year… to a woman who used the money to buy a cow. But it could just as well have been something else.

  49. Jennifer Kenny said,

    Thank you for a VERY VERY wonderful reference. I shared it with my daughter. Once I have launched my own girl into the world I plan to make this the focus of my work. I believe that this is a fundamental truth not just in the developing world but in the first world also and we still have a long way to go.

  50. Linda Collison said,

    Thanks for sharing that, and for reminding us compassion starts with an individual. Let’s “walk the talk” and do something concrete to help another human being!

  51. Ronan Reodica said,

    I have to agree with Aykan’s response and say that Robin missed the point of the video. In fact, the Girl Effect is more in line with Kiva’s mission than what he thinks.

    First of all, the video never indicated that a girl was being given a cow. She could take out a loan to buy a cow. Most experts/academicians in the microfinance field agree that microloans made to women are more likely to have a greater social impact because they spend their profits on their children, other family members, and in the local community.

    The borrowers on Kiva are predominantly women. My own Kiva portfolio is comprised of 70% women. I’ve decided to highlight some of those loans that indeed illustrate the Girl Effect. Despite having agricultural loans in my portfolio, I purposely selected examples that did not involve a cow:

    a). Karla is a woman in Mexico who has three children. She wasn’t earning enough money working as a household domestic to support her family, so she decided to start her own housekeeping business. Over time, she has been able to establish a significant client base. She requested a loan to purchase an industrial vacuum cleaner.

    b). Blandine lives in the African nation of Benin and has two school-aged children. She operates a beauty salon out of her home. She trains three apprentices who assist her with her clients. She requested a loan to purchase an additional hair dryer for her business.

    And my favorite one…

    c.) Adora is from the Philippines and just recently gave birth (to a daughter). She owns a sewing business, specializing in gowns and schools uniforms. Her business employs three additional people and she also provides on-the-job training for students at a local school. She requested a loan to purchase additional equipment and fabric to expand her service offering to include mass production of t-shirts. Her goal is to continue expanding her business and providing more employment opportunities within her community.

  52. Anton Kritzinger said,

    Great video, Chris! Thanks.

    Here’s a program I like that’s focused on girls. I don’t know the age range covered, but it’s for girls, not women.

    In their own words: “Because I am a Girl is Plan’s campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty. Across the world, girls face the double discrimination of their gender and age, leaving them suffering at the bottom of the social ladder.”

  53. Veena Singh said,

    Hi. I would like to play little bit of devil’s advocate and at the same time agree on few points with Robin. Firstly, even though all of the ‘statistics’ provided here are true, this video oversimplified the whole issue of ‘social development’ assuming there is a linear relationship as cause and effect. Is it that simple to give money to a ‘women’ and issue is resolved. Secondly, even if you provide all the opportunities for female education and community is not willing to accept and assimilate the notion of female education than how do you think changes occur. Isn’t it more like change should be demanded by the community and approved /accepted by the community?
    My whole point is that this is all an interplay of many factors. On one hand, giving opportunity is good but on the other hand this may not always translate into economic development or female empowerment. So, be cautious in your expectations/approach.

  54. Ronan Reodica said,


    You may want to view this short video by Women to Women International:

    The founder highlights one woman who became an active part of her community once she was given economic empowerment. This is not to say that change occurs overnight; it develops gradually one level at a time. The process has to start with giving women educational/economic opportunities in order for them to gain status and acceptance within their own families. Multiply this effect among other women in the community and you start building momentum for a change in attitude.

  55. Patricia Enright said,

    I completely agree…change is not overnight, but it happens!
    I was in Tanzania 2 years ago and met a woman who had saved $500 (while making only $20 per month that supported her family of 7), to send herself to school. The $500 she saved paid for the first year, and I raised the rest with friends and family. Mama Joseph has now graduated from teacher’s college, and secured a job as a teacher in a primary school. People in the community who didn’t talk to her before because she was so poor are talking to her now. She makes $150/month and is very proud. She has become a role model.
    This month, she started a leadership program for girls at her primary school. The program helps the girls, many of whom are orphans, learn important life skills. The goal is to keep the girls in school, which decreases their likelihood of getting pregnant and/or getting AIDS. She is also teaching her 5 sons the importance of empowering women. They are the next generation of men.
    I think this is the perfect example of how empowering just ONE woman can effect an ENTIRE community. It’s not overnight, but it happens.

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