Gender inequality is visible in girls’ and boys’ homes and communities on a daily basis — in textbooks, the media, and among the adults who care for them.
Parents may shoulder disproportionate home responsibilities, with females shouldering the burden of caregiving and chores. Women make up the bulk of low-skilled and underpaid community health workers who work with children, with few opportunities for advancement.
In addition, many females receive less help in school than boys in order to pursue the studies they choose. This occurs for a number of reasons: Girls’ safety, hygiene, and sanitation needs may be overlooked, preventing them from attending class on a regular basis. Gender disparities in learning and skill development are also a result of discriminatory teaching styles and educational resources. As a result, approximately one out of every four girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is unemployed or in school or training, compared to one out of every ten boys.
Gender inequalities in early childhood, however, are minor. Girls have a better rate of survival at birth, are more likely to be on track developmentally, and are equally as likely to attend preschool. In every country where data is available, girls exceed boys in reading among those who reach secondary school.
Adolescence, on the other hand, can provide substantial challenges for females’ well-being. Unwanted pregnancies, HIV and AIDS, and malnutrition are all increased by gender stereotypes and discrimination. Girls are shut off from the information and equipment they need to stay healthy and safe, especially in emergency situations and locations where menstruation is still taboo.
Gender discrimination can become violent in its most insidious form. Around 13 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have been subjected to forced sex. Adolescent girls are the most vulnerable to gender-based violence in both peace and conflict. Hundreds of millions of girls around the world are still subjected to child marriage and female genital mutilation, despite the fact that both have been recognised as human rights crimes internationally. And violence can occur during childbirth, especially in areas where female infanticide is a problem.
At the highest levels, harmful gender norms are promoted. In other nations, laws and policies that fail to safeguard – or even violate – girls’ rights, such as laws prohibiting women from inheriting property, become established. Gender norms affect boys as well: social ideas of masculinity can fuel child labour, gang violence, school dropouts, and armed group recruitment.
What Progress has been made for Girls and Young Women?
Despite significant obstacles that continue to deny them equal rights, girls are unafraid to pursue their dreams. The globe has seen unequal progress since the signing of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995 – the most comprehensive policy agenda for gender equality.
Girls are attending and completing school in greater numbers, and fewer are marrying or becoming moms while still children. Discrimination and stereotypes persist, however. Girls face new problems as a result of technological advancements and humanitarian crises, while old ones — violence, entrenched biases, and limited learning and life chances – endure.
That is why young women from all areas of life are speaking out against inequity. Stopping child marriage and female genital mutilation, demanding action on climate change, and breaking new ground in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are all examples of girl-led groups asserting their authority as global change-makers.