with the face of a young girl from India, China, or Pakistan. Only one word is beneath her picture. Missing. No name. No contact details. No plea for help. She wasn't wanted in the first place.
Now add 99,999,999 milk cartons to the row. A girl looks out from each. Nameless. Missing and presumed dead. A hundred million of them.
Okay, estimates are estimates. Nobody has counted, but based on the work of Economics Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, and others, the numbers of girls who are missing from the populations of countries from Egypt to China is stunning.
The easy explanation - gender preference for boys in a number of countries leads to infanticide, abortion, or death through neglect among girls. Of course, it is more complicated than that. Other non-cultural factors may effect disparate survival rates between the sexes and should be investigated, but even granting these effects, the cultural war on girls is breathtaking - deaths during World War Two totaled 50-78 million.
What should we do? Sure, I would love to wag my finger at all these cultures and tell them how unenlightened they are, after all, living in this part of the world, it was a constant refrain "Now that you've had two daughters, you must be really glad to have a son." The ten fingers, ten toes answer didn't seem to satisfy many.
However, if you look at the problem, it is closely linked to poverty. Societies that have had a demonstrated bias towards boys historically have diminished the preference as incomes rose. Sure there may be cultural hold outs and I am happy to wag my finger at them, but in the meantime, lets kill two birds with one stone - reducing poverty will reduce the number of faces that go on the milk cartons.