By Christiane Amanpour, CNN
Dear Girls of the World,
There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Half of them are women and girls.
Just imagine the whole world rising, as it will, when all women and girls are empowered.
It has to start with education. All the number crunchers have it right on this one: education = empowerment, from here in the United States to Uruguay and Ulan Bator.
The United Nations, the World Bank and any organization you can think of say that an educated girl is a girl who can get a job, become a breadwinner and raise herself, her family, her village, her community and eventually her whole country. All the stories and statistics show that a healthy society is one whose women are healthy and productive.
Look at what women and girls are achieving for Rwanda, 19 years after the genocide there. The country leads the way in Africa in every way: education, health, the economy, the environment and in elected politics, powered by the force of its women. It is an amazing story. In contrast, the Arab world, which is so rich in natural resources such as oil and gas, is way behind in all development indicators, because half their populations, their women, are denied basic rights. It's why the Arab Spring must liberate and fully empower women, for the good of those countries.
Did you know that if female employment were to match male employment in the United States, gross domestic product would rise by 5%. And in developing countries that figure soars by double digits - for instance, GDP would rise 34% in Egypt if women and men had equal employment opportunities.
And this is where education comes in. According to a 2004 report co-authored by Gene Sperling (now a senior economic aide to President Barack Obama), a woman can expect a 10% to 20% rise in earning power with every additional year of primary education beyond average. Another economist, Paul Schultz, found that number increased to 15% to 25% higher earning power with each additional year of secondary school.
So educate our girls if you want to reduce infant mortality, stabilize population growth and reduce cases of HIV/AIDS.
In rural areas, the United Nations says wages, agriculture income and productivity all improve when the female workers are educated.
It is time to end the discrimination against girls in education. According to the U.N., around 35 million girls are not enrolled in primary school and that has to end.
Almost 800 million people worldwide are illiterate; two-thirds of them are women and girls. Imagine a world where they could actually read and write and do basic math for accounting - that is how the world will change. Women are much more likely than men to use their earnings for the good of the family, rather than spending it on alcohol or other things for themselves.
Just ask the great microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank - women are the best bet. You lend them a little, and they pay back in spades. He has known this for 30 years.
It's high time the rest of the world caught on. Go girls! Power the world! We can do it.