Despite improvement in education, girls still facing violence and discrimination worldwide, Unicef report warns

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The number of girls attending schools and continuing studies is higher than ever worldwide, but the remarkable progress reported in the education field has contributed too little to building a proper environment where girls should enjoy more gender equality and less violence, UNICEF, Plan International and UN Women have warned today in a new report.

The UNICEF, Plan International and UN Women report, A New Era for Girls: Taking stock of 25 years of progress, finds that while girls’ lives are better today than they were 25 years ago, the gains are uneven across regions and countries. This is particularly true for adolescent girls.

Girls born today are expected to live eight years longer, yet we are still far from the vision of gender equality set out in 1995. This report demonstrates the need to focus on the realities girls face today and addresses the critical issues of making sure girls have access to 12 years of education and the skills they need for the workforce; ending gender-based violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM); and improving girls’ health and nutrition.

Nearly 64 million girls were born in 1995, the year the Beijing Platform and Declaration for Action was adopted, beginning their lives as the global community committed to improving their rights, while nearly 68 million girls are expected to be born this year.

The number of out-of-school girls worldwide dropped by 79 million between 1998 and 2018

When it comes to education today, fewer girls are out of school. Nearly two in three girls are enrolled in secondary school compared to one in two in 1998.

Gender disparities in the number of out-of-school children have narrowed substantially over the past two decades. At the secondary level, they have shifted to the disadvantage of boys. Globally, in 1998, there were more girls of secondary school age out of school than boys (143 million girls compared to 127 million boys). Today, the opposite is true: There are 97 million girls of secondary school age out of school compared to 102 million boys. Still, despite the remarkable gains made for girls in the past two decades, they are still more disadvantaged at the primary level, with 5.5 million more girls than boys of this age out of school worldwide. Added to this, global progress in reducing the number of out-of-school children at the primary level has stagnated for both girls and boys since 2007.

The number of female youth aged 15-24 years who are illiterate declined from 100 million to 56 million between 1995 and 2018, but 1 in 10 female youth remain illiterate today.

Literacy, a basic foundational skill necessary for personal growth and active citizenship, has increased globally among youth over the past 25 years, but a gender gap at the expense of girls persists. Adolescent girls and young women aged 15–24 years make up 56 per cent of the global illiterate youth population today compared to 61 per cent in 1995.

However, we are facing a globally recognized “learning crisis”; this means, even when girls are in school, many do not receive a quality education. Many are not developing the transferable skills, like critical thinking and communication, or digital skills needed to compete in today’s labour market and gig economy. In fact, worldwide, nearly one in four girls aged 15–19 years is neither employed nor in education or training compared to 1 in 10 boys of the same age. This suggests that even in childhood, girls’ aspirations for education and employment compete with gender biases in the labour market and societal expectations of girls.

Violence, which should never occur, is still experienced by too many girls

No girl should be subject to child marriage, FGM, sexual violence or abuse in any place. Yet, an astonishing 1 in every 20 girls aged 15-19 – around 13 million – has experienced forced sex in their lifetimes, one of the most violent forms of sexual abuse women and girls can suffer. Meanwhile, even though harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM have declined in the past 25 years, they continue to disrupt and damage the lives and potential of millions of girls globally.

Since 1995, the proportion of young women who were married as children has declined globally from 1 in 4 to approximately 1 in 5.

Girls face heightened health risks in adolescence

Girls today still face challenges receiving the health services and information they need to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections g and healthy lives.

Over the past 25 years, the adolescent birth rate has declined from 60 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years to 44 births, worldwide.

The proportion of girls aged 5-19 years who are overweight has nearly doubled since 1995.

In Romania, according to a study released in 2017 by the National Centre of  Healthcare Evaluation and Promotion, the prevalence of obesity among girls aged 8 was 9 percent, lower than among boys of the same age (13.50%).

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