Investing in girls’ education is the obvious solution to improving women’s equality around the world. Now, a new study demonstrates that it could also be the solution to reducing poverty in developing countries.

United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) recent State of World Population 2016 report revealed shocking statistics:

There are 65 million 10-year-old girls in the world. Among 5- to14-year-old girls, 10 percent do more than 28 hours of household chores a week. Sixteen million girls will never start school. Every day, a shocking 47,700 girls under the age of 18 get married. Most will become mothers soon after. UNFPA proposes to send them to school instead. If realized, the impact could be enormous.

According to the report, sending girls to school would mean a potential tripling of their lifetime income. In fact, each year of education would deliver an additional 11.7 percent increase in wages in later life for girls. This would in turn be a driving force to grow the economy in their countries.

“Over the next 15 years alone, developing countries together stand to gain or forfeit at least US$21 billion, depending on whether or not they invest in the well-being, education, and independence of their 10-year-old girls today,” says the study.

Investing in girls’ education today would also have an impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for poverty eradication, gender equality, and universal access to health care, among others. The UNFPA emphasizes that none of these global goals can be achieved without realizing the rights and potential of girls.

“What the world looks like in 2030 depends on doing everything we can to ignite the potential of 10-year-old girls today,” says Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive director.

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