October 21, 2016

Fulfilling girls’ rights is the key to the world’s future, reports the UNFPA

Investing in girls will result in significant socio-cultural, political, and economic dividends for countries and society, says the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNPFA) latest State of World Population (WOP) report—10: How our future depends on a girl at this decisive age.

An estimated 125 million 10-year-olds are alive today (60 million girls; 65 million boys), part of the largest number of young people in human history. More than half live in countries with high levels of gender inequality

Girls are still less likely than boys to complete formal schooling at secondary and university levels, more likely to be in poorer physical and mental health, and will find it harder to get paid employment,” the report says. 

The WOP concentrates on 10-year-old girls because, although she’s still a child, “she’s approaching that age when many people in many countries start to think of a girl as an asset or a commodity—for work, childbearing or sex. Impeding a girl’s safe, healthy path through adolescence to a productive adulthood is a violation of her rights. But it also takes a toll on her community and nation.”

With a leadership role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty, health, education, and gender equality, the UNFPA notes that attaining the goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health services supports the freedom of every girl and woman to seek an education, find decent work, and contribute even more to her family, community, and nation.

The report highlights “10 important actions for the 10-year-old girl”:

1. Stipulate legal equality for girls, backed by consistent legal practice. 
2. Ban all harmful practices against girls, and make 18 the minimum marriage age. 
3. Provide safe, high-quality education that fully upholds gender equality in curricula, teaching standards, and extracurricular activities. 
4. In working towards universal health care, institute a 10-year-old mental and physical health check-up for all girls. 
5. Provide universal comprehensive sexuality education when puberty begins. 
6. Institute a rigorous and systematic focus on inclusion, acting on all factors rendering girls vulnerable to being left behind. 
7. Track and close investment gaps in young adolescent girls. 
8. Mobilize new funds for mental health, protection, and reducing unpaid work that constrains options for girls. 
9. Use the [2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development] data revolution to better track progress for girls, including on sexual and reproductive health.
10. Engage girls, boys, and all the people around them in challenging and changing gender discriminatory norms

Sher Verick has written for IZA World of Labor about the various factors affecting the quality of employment for women in developing countries. He writes that: “There is considerably more variation across developing countries in labor force participation by women than by men. This variation is driven by a wide variety of economic and social factors, which include economic growth, education, and social norms. Looking more broadly at improving women’s access to quality employment, a critical policy area is enhancing women’s educational attainment beyond secondary schooling.”

Related articles:
Female labor force participation in developing countries, by Sher Verick
Can cash transfers reduce child labor?, by Furio C. Rosati
Policies to support women’s paid work, by Gianna Claudia Giannelli
Does minimum age of employment regulation reduce child labor?, by Eric V. Edmonds