Clinton on how a cow can change a girl’s life

Here’s an amusing anecdote that Secretary Clinton told during her speech last week at the TEDWomen conference. It illustrates how education and economic empowerment can slowly, but surely advance the well-being of women and girls: I love this story about a teenage girl and a cow, which drives home the challenge but also the opportunity ...

Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Here's an amusing anecdote that Secretary Clinton told during her speech last week at the TEDWomen conference. It illustrates how education and economic empowerment can slowly, but surely advance the well-being of women and girls:

I love this story about a teenage girl and a cow, which drives home the challenge but also the opportunity that we face today. This teenage girl's father expected to force her into an early marriage, but she had been to school and she received a cow, perhaps through the Heifer Project, designed to encourage her to stay in school. When her father demanded that she drop out of school and get married, she said no. When he insisted, she insisted right back. And finally, she pulled out her trump card -- "If I leave and get married, I'm taking my cow." (Laughter.) "That cow belongs to me." So, guess what? She stayed in school. She was spared an early marriage all because her father couldn't bear to part with the cow. (Laughter.)

But the lesson goes beyond the human nature of the story. Even a small intervention can change a girl's life.

Here’s an amusing anecdote that Secretary Clinton told during her speech last week at the TEDWomen conference. It illustrates how education and economic empowerment can slowly, but surely advance the well-being of women and girls:

I love this story about a teenage girl and a cow, which drives home the challenge but also the opportunity that we face today. This teenage girl’s father expected to force her into an early marriage, but she had been to school and she received a cow, perhaps through the Heifer Project, designed to encourage her to stay in school. When her father demanded that she drop out of school and get married, she said no. When he insisted, she insisted right back. And finally, she pulled out her trump card — "If I leave and get married, I’m taking my cow." (Laughter.) "That cow belongs to me." So, guess what? She stayed in school. She was spared an early marriage all because her father couldn’t bear to part with the cow. (Laughter.)

But the lesson goes beyond the human nature of the story. Even a small intervention can change a girl’s life.

Clinton didn’t say what country the girl was in, but the give-a-girl-a-cow program appears to at least exist in Bangladesh. The information provided with the 2008 Getty photo above of a teenage girl in rural Bangladesh says that she acquired her cows through a program that provides financial investment for adolescent girls and is funded by the Bangladeshi NGO BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) and the Nike Foundation.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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