0718 GMT January 20, 2021
Despite major gains in some aspects of girls’ lives since governments pledged at the fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 to advance the rights of women and girls, violence against them is still not only common but accepted, claim the UN children’s agency, Plan International, and UN Women. They warn that if discrimination continues, the 2030 gender equality targets are unlikely to be achieved, according to the Guardian.
Globally, the number of out-of-school girls has dropped by 79 million in the last two decades, and today girls are more likely to be in secondary school than boys, the report claims. But girls are still less likely than boys to receive a quality education while at school, the report says.
Poor mental health among girls is also on the rise, data shows, with suicide the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19, surpassed only by deaths in pregnancy and childbirth.
A global shift in diet from traditional foods to modern “cheap calories” from fatty and sugary foods, coupled with urbanization and lack of physical activity, has also had a negative impact on girls worldwide, the report claims. Today, there are 155 million overweight teen girls compared with 74 million in 1995, data shows.
Although girls born today can expect to live nearly eight years longer, on average, than girls born in 1995, entrenched gender inequality still limits the opportunities available to them, according to the report. Twice as many girls as boys aged 15–19 are out of school, out of work and out of training, while at least 60 percent of countries still discriminate against daughters’ rights to inherit land.
Sexual violence against girls and sexually transmitted infections are also far-reaching and common, the report says. About 13 million girls aged 15–19 have been raped, data shows. Meanwhile, although the number of new HIV infections among adolescent girls has halved since 1995, they still account for nearly three in four new infections among adolescents. Today, there are 970,000 girls aged 10 to 19 living with HIV compared to 740,000 girls in 1995.
“25 years ago, the world’s governments made a commitment to women and girls, but they have only made partial good on that promise. While the world has mustered the political will to send many girls to school, it has come up embarrassingly short on equipping them with the skills and support they need not only to shape their own destinies, but to live in safety and dignity,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“Access to education is not enough – we must also change people’s behaviors and attitudes towards girls. True equality will only come when all girls are safe from violence, free to exercise their rights, and are able to enjoy equal opportunities in life.”