If you were to look back on your childhood, you might remember going to school, exploring the world around, and discovering the things that have inspired you throughout life. But what might your life look like if you didn’t have those experiences?
Around the world, girls continue to face discrimination and limited opportunity simply because they are girls. Childhood is the foundation of adulthood, and the inequality that girls face have massive effects on the rest of their lives.
That’s why on International Day of the Girl, we must honor the potential of girls everywhere. Every girl has the power to do anything and become anyone. We must make sure that every child, everywhere, has an equal chance at thriving.
Making sure girls have equal opportunities isn’t only the right thing to do. It is in all of our best interests to combat inequality
If universal secondary education were achieved, child marriage could be virtually eliminated. The prevalence of early childbearing could also be reduced by up to three fourths. On top of that, gender equality is associated with a lot of potential global benefits, including higher levels of human development and higher income per capita. Women and girls empowerment can also lead to increased national, regional, and international stability and security.
It’s good for the global economy as well: If gender gaps in work and society were narrowed, global GDP could increase by up to US$12-28 trillion by 2025.
The Current Reality
But girls are currently facing harsh realities globally. Here are 9 statistics that need immediate global attention:
- Globally, 12 million girls are married in childhood per year.
- An estimated 650 million women alive today were married as children. That’s double the population of the United States.
- Globally, 310,000 young women contract HIV every year.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, four out of five adolescents aged 15-19 who contract HIV are girls.
- A young woman in sub-Saharan Africa is twice as likely to contract HIV as a young man her age.
- An estimated 50 adolescent girls die every day from AIDS-related illnesses.
- Almost one third (35%) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
- In 2019, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). That number is projected to rise to 4.6 million girls each year by 2030.
- Globally, girls aged 5–14 spend 550 million hours every day on household chores, 160 million more hours than boys their age spend.
There’s still a lot of work needed to end these injustices. Luckily, there are activists worldwide who are working to empower girls and combat the realities that continue to limit them.
Fighting for Change
Over the next few months, we will be rolling out a documentary series that tells the stories of three such activists. Yours in Power follows lawyer Melene Rossouw, Dr. Joannie Marlene Bewa, and youth advocate Wadi Ben-Hirki as they offer advice and encouragement to their younger selves. Their stories prove that every girl can thrive when given the chance, and their work is paving the way for girls to do just that.
These facts may be today’s realities, but they don’t have to be. We must continue the fight for a future global gender equality, leaving all of these facts in the past.