International Ministries

The Girl Effect

April 24, 2010 Journal
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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalists, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn was published in 2009.   The book calls on readers to actively oppose the insidious forces of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence and maternal mortality due to lack of access to healthcare.  The authors describe a phenomenon that is increasingly being referred to as “The Girl Effect”. 
Research is beginning to surface that two of the most effective strategies for poverty alleviation in underdeveloped countries are: providing girls with equal access to education; and increasing microfinance to support small business development for women.   Kristof and WuDunn quote Lawrence Summers, when he was the chief economist of the World Bank as stating that, “Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world…”  They go on to cite a World Bank study entitled Engendering Development Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice, which asserts that gender equality is essential to combating global poverty.  And a statement from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stresses that “Women’s empowerment helps raise economic productivity and reduce infant mortality.  It contributes to improved health and nutrition.  It increases the chances of education for the next generation.”  (Kristof and WuDunn, p. 9)


The Grameen Bank micro-loan program in Bangladesh is one model of poverty alleviation, based on women’s empowerment.  The organization was founded in 1976 by Muhammad Yunis and has been so successful that Yunis was granted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work with the Grameen Bank.  The bank provides micro-loans to small groups of poor rural entrepreneurs with no collateral, focusing primarily on women.  The Grameen Bank describes why 90% of the borrowers are women, stating that, “Studies have shown that the overall output of development is greater when loans are given to women instead of men, as women are more likely to use their earnings to improve their living situations and to educate their children.” ( 

My American desire for gender equality cringes at the research results.  Why is this the case?  Can it really be the case that men in underdeveloped countries are statistically less likely to provide for their families and educate their children than women are?  I don’t want it to be true.  But the research seems to consistently point in that direction.  How successful has the Grameen Bank been in its efforts?  Loan repayment rates hover around 97%.  Average household incomes of Grameen Bank members are approximately 50% higher than the comparable target groups in villages not associated with the Grameen Bank.  The number of Grameen Bank members living below the poverty line has been reduced to 20%, as compared to the national standard of 56% for comparable non-members.  And the rural poor members it serves own 90% of the bank shares.   Successful?  I think so.


This year, the New Life Center will be providing primary and secondary education for 115 girls in our residential program who would not otherwise be able to access schooling.   Approximately half of these residents have come out of a situation of labor exploitation, human trafficking, or extreme sexual abuse.  They now live in safety, participate in rehabilitative programming, and pursue their education without fear of being victimized further.  We will provide scholarships to 80 students in community-based primary and secondary educational programs, for kids who can live at home with their families, and just need assistance so they can go to school in their own villages.  We will have 16 girls in vocational training, studying to be tailors, beauticians, and nurse’s aides. And additionally, this year, we will support 52 girls with scholarships to university, as compared to the years 2005-2008, in which we supported 3 students to go to university.  That is a 1,633% increase in New Life Center scholarship recipients who will now be able to get a university education!


The New Life Center is also considering the possibility of opening up a whole new branch of ministry in business development services.  This means that we would help impoverished tribal women in Thailand access small business loans, and provide training and guidance in small business start-up, maintenance and expansion.  And as Kristof and WuDunn have shown, education and micro-enterprise development for girls and women have a direct correlation to poverty alleviation, decreased risk for trafficking, exploitation and abuse, and increased access to healthcare.  And this investment will benefit not only these New Life Center girls’ lives, but also the lives of their parents and siblings and indeed, every generation to follow. Reading about “The Girl Effect” is good.  Seeing it in action is even better!    


Thank you so much to each and every one of you who support me and this important work through prayer and sacrificial financial contributions.  Your generous partnership is crucial to these efforts. You are making a real difference.




New Life Center Girls

Participate in

Special Art Workshops

The NLC girls did some art workshops with a group called "Cultural Canvas". They wrote some lovely entries in their blog about their time with us. These entries can be found at:


Click on "March" then go to the entries for Mar 26: Photography and Body Mapping, Mar 22: Image Theater, Mar 17: Body Mapping



Many friends have inquired about the political stability of Thailand at this time.  This is the current situation, as far as I understand it:  There is a group of people calling themselves the “Red Shirts” or “UDD”.  They are supported and funded by the 23rd Prime Minister of Thailand, and multi-billionaire, Thaksin Shinawatra.  During Thaksin’s tenure, he instituted highly popular policies to alleviate rural poverty. However, Thaksin was also responsible for a range of human rights violations.  Since his removal from office by a military coup in 2006, Thaksin has been tried and convicted of tax evasion. He evaded arrest and fled the country to avoid serving a prison sentence. 



Thaksin’s supporters initiated a protest on March 12, calling for the immediate resignation of the current Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the dissolution of the House of Parliament.  Protestors are receiving an average daily stipend of 500 Baht per day, which is about three times the minimum wage.  One of their methods of protest involved thousands of protestors donating blood, which was collected and thrown in buckets at the Government House, the Democrat Party Headquarters, and the Prime Minister’s house in a ritual curse.  Not only bizarre, but also dangerous!  (Tests performed on the blood show that contributors were infected with HIV, Hep B and Hep C.)

On April 10th, protests became violent,  and the Thai authorities stepped in.  Twenty-five people were killed, including both soldiers and protestors and over eight hundred people were wounded.   On Friday, April 23, five grenades were launched from the encampment of the Red Shirts in the Silom area of Bangkok, killing one person, and wounding eighty-six.  Two other groups have been launching counter-protests.  These are the “Yellow Shirts”, who are supportive of the current Prime Minister, and the “no color” group who have also been gathering to support the government’s enforcement of the law and the restoration of order. 

The government has imposed a state of “emergency rule”, and the military has been assigned to respond to the protestors.  Thai authorities have expressed great restraint, and willingness to compromise, but the “Red Shirts” refuse to accept anything less than the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister.  There is a high degree of possibility that this volatile situation may escalate.

The  General  Secretary  of  the  Church  of  Christ in Thailand, Rev. Sayam is calling for prayer for a peaceful resolution to the conflict (   I live in the city of Chiang Mai, which is about a 9-hour drive north from Bangkok.  We are having “Red Shirt” protests at our city hall, which has caused the government officials to shut down the building.  However, the protests have not become violent, and have been confined to certain designated areas of town, so as to minimize interference with people’s daily lives.  The heart of the violence has, so far, been limited to Bangkok. So I am not currently in physical danger at this time.  But I would join Rev. Sayam in requesting prayers for the nation of Thailand. 

  --Love, Kit


Kit Ripley
American Baptist Int'l Ministries
New Life Center

Chiang Mai, Thailand