The (alleged) 7 billionth baby, Danica May Camacho, born Monday in Manila, Philippines, was welcomed into the world with a gift certificate for free shoes, chocolate cake, and an ambivalent international reception.
Last week, the United Nations Population Fund announced that the world’s population would reach 7 billion people on Monday – an estimate and symbolic milestone – causing a bit of confusion, some celebration, and a lot of concern. For starters, Danica was one of several newborns to be deemed “the 7 billionth baby” on Monday. In fact, India appointed 7 different baby girls to assume the honor.
The birth of the 7 billionth – whoever that may be – produced mixed feelings among the international community, as it was a cause for celebration, and a symbolic warning that our population growth is getting out of hand. Dr Tayag of the Philippines’ Department of Health asserted on Monday, “Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply.”
So, Danica received a gift certificate for free shoes, but will she get an education? According to UNICEF, in the Philippines, over 11 million school-aged children are out of school. This is a global problem, and access to education is an even greater challenge for girls. Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school. Barriers to educational opportunities vary depending on the context, but many developing countries lack infrastructure and resources to educate the current population of school-aged children, let alone the imminent influx of students over the next several decades.
However, despite this reality, one answer to startling population growth lies in girls’ education. With the opportunity to complete her education, a girl is less likely to get married at a young age, and more likely to decide when and how many children she will have in her lifetime. Beyond a basic education, the UN Foundation’s Ted Turner suggests that access to family planning methods and education would allow women to make choices about when to have a child – improving their own health, and potentially the health of our planet.
10x10 nonprofit partner Plan International named its own symbolic 7 billionth, a girl named Nargis from India, in conjunction with their campaign against female foeticide (as male children are considered more valuable than female children in many parts of India, more than half a million female fetuses are terminated every year through sex-selective abortions). Nargis’ mother Vinita says, “I am absolutely thrilled that my first born is a girl. I want my daughter to be highly educated and I would love if she became a doctor in the future,” while her father Ajay responds, “I am very happy that my daughter is a special baby and I will ensure that she will make something of herself when she grows up.”