International Day of the Girl Child (11 October) is an annual day when the world considers the particular challenges faced by girls around the world.
This year the international community assessed the progress made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) since their implementation in 2000 and looked at the Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years.
Girls born at the turn of the new millennium have now achieved adolescence. But, what has the world achieved for them?
MDG 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
The girl child living in a developing country may now be less likely to experience extreme poverty than before. Despite this, women still face a greater risk of living in poverty than men due to their unequal access to paid work, lower earnings, lack of social protection and limited access to assets.
MDG 2 Achieve universal primary education
The girl child may have had greater access to primary education and has improved literacy skills. The number of out of school children globally has been cut almost in half since 2000. However, while improvements have been achieved, a gender gap in literacy rates remains with average youth literacy rates estimated to be 93% for men and 90% for women.
MDG 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
The girl child may have a greater chance of accessing paid employment, yet will receive less earnings than her brother.
The proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35% in 1990 to 41% in 2015. Yet women remain at a disadvantage in the labour market.
MDG 4 Reduce child mortality
The girl child most probably has received vaccinations against disease. Her siblings are more likely to have survived their childhood. Child mortality rates are falling faster than ever. Despite this improvement, the current mortality rates do not meet the MDG target. In 2015, every day, around the world, about 16,000 children under five die.
MDG 5 Improve maternal health
The girl child would have seen her mother survive the birth of her siblings and her siblings would have most probably been delivered by a trained health professional. However, in the developing countries, significant gaps remain between rural and urban regions.
MDG 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
The girl child is more than likely to be under less threat from disease than she was 15 years ago. Anti malaria interventions have been expanded and tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment have been increased.
MDG 7 Ensure environmental sustainability
The girl child and her community would more likely have access to improved drinking water and improved sanitation. Yet deforestation, forest degradation and over exploitation of marine fisheries remain threats to ecosystems and to livelihoods.
Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population and is projected to rise.
MDG 8 Develop a global partnership for development
The girl child would have witnessed the effects of overall increased development assistance from overseas aid. Overseas development assistance increased by 66% in real terms between 2000 and 2015.
However global overseas aid is now decreasing and thus, while the debt burden of developing countries fell dramatically over the first decade of the new millennium, it is now expected to rise.
Supporting the girl child into adulthood
Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated and healthy life, not only during the formative years, but also as they mature.
The global community has made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during their childhood. But it is now time to consider greater investment as the girl child enters the second decade of her live.
This greater investment is needed to ensure quality secondary education and higher education, prevention of child marriages, services regarding reproductive health and prevention against gender based violence.
Girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girl children of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, household heads and political leaders.
As the global community moves forward on the Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years, it is time to recognise that achievements made in supporting young girls in reaching their potential, is the key factor in achieving a sustainable and equitable world.
Reference: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015. (United Nations, New York)