“I call on all countries to take urgent and strong measures to protect the human rights of women and girls.”
-Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director, UN Women, 24 September 2012
A child is born. After three months, her mother stops breastfeeding her. At meal times, she is fed last and least and thus, will be permanently stunted. At age six, instead of being sent to school, she is taught how to milk a cow and plant crops. At age 10, she will walk five miles, alone, every day, carrying 40 lb water jugs. At age 12, while on one of these solo walks, she is subject to a violent encounter. To avoid public shame, she is married to her attacker. By age 13, this undereducated, undernourished girl is a mother. When her daughter is three months old, she stops breastfeeding her and at mealtimes, she feeds her daughter last and least. The cycle of malnutrition and inequality continues. But it doesn’t have to.
When a girl has the opportunity to be educated and healthy, not only does she benefit, society as a whole benefits. Educated girls marry later, have healthier children and take an active role in their communities to ensure the rights of other women are upheld.
Read on to learn more about the state of girls in the world. Then, together with your family, friends and communities, make a commitment to stand with these girls and fight for their rights.
- Maternal under-nutrition increases the probability of low birth weight. Globally, almost 50% of pregnant women (56 million) are anaemic.
- Underweight babies are 20 percent more likely to die before the age of five.
- Over two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies – particularly vitamin A, iodine, iron and zinc – and women and girls are especially vulnerable.
Children and Marriage
- Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence.
- About one in seven adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19), across the world, are currently married or in union.
- Globally, 1 in 4 young women alive today were married in childhood versus 1 in 3 in the early 1980s.
Watch this video to learn more about how ending child marriage can break the cycle of malnutrition.
- Globally, about 15 million girls are not expected to ever attend school
- In South and West Asia, 80 percent of out-of-school girls will never start compared to 16 percent of out-of-school boys
- If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths
- As female education rises, fertility, population growth, and infant and child mortality fall and family health improves
- If all women had a secondary education, child deaths would be cut in half, saving 3 million lives.
- Education plays an important role in giving women more control over how many children they have. 10% fewer girls would become pregnant if all girls had primary education. 59% fewer girls would become pregnant if all girls had secondary education.
What We Do
- Celebrate and empower girl children in Bangladesh. In 2000, The Hunger Project catalyzed the formation of a 300-organization alliance that, each year, honors National Girl Child Day, a day that gathers tens of thousands of people in events focused on eradicating all forms of discrimination against girl children. The alliance functions as the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, with activities throughout the year, and THP-Bangladesh serves as the secretariat. In 2012, for the first time, the United Nations will recognize International Day of the Girl around the world.
- Promoting Equal Education for Girls. Animators across our Program Countries run educational campaigns to promote childhood primary school enrollment, especially for girl children. All children enrolled in our epicenter nursery schools in Africa are guaranteed access to a full nutritious meal every day they are in attendance. In 2014, more than half of the 8,803 children enrolled in the nursery school program were girls. Moreover, our Microfinance Program in Africa includes a policy that requires participants to enroll their daughters in school.
- Maternal and childhood health monitoring. Throughout our programs, women participate in educational workshops to learn about the importance of maternal health and caring for their children. Elected women leaders in India ensure that government-run maternal and child health centers are functioning effectively and reaching the community. In Africa, children are weighed and monitored at our epicenter health clinics. In 2014, of the 159,256 children whose health was monitored, well over half of them were girls.
- Ending child marriage, dowry and other harmful cultural practices. Animators throughout our programs run awareness campaigns to put an end to violence against girls and discriminatory practices like child marriage, dowry and female genital mutilation.