Issues: Empowering Girls

Girl in Ethiopia as her mother prepares lunch - Debre Libanos Epicenter 2012.jpg


"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.


  • A baby girl is breastfed six to eight weeks less than a baby boy. Nearly one million child deaths could be prevented each year if girls were exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life.1
  • Half of all stunting happens in utero as a result of an undernourished mother. 2
  • In India, 47% of all adolescent girls are underweight.3

Children and Marriage

  • Nearly half of all girls in developing countries become mothers before they are 18 years old.4
  • 50,000 girls die annually during childbirth, making it the number one killer of girls between age 15-19.4
  • 1 out of every 3 girls is married by the age of 18. 4


  • 36 million primary school aged girls are not enrolled in school.5Girl student in Ethiopia by David Snyder, 2012
  • On average, girls receive only six years of formal education in their lives.5
  • Every year of secondary school a girl attends elevates her future income by 10-20%.6
  • A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past age five.6
  • Improved education of girls alone was responsible for a 43% total reduction in undernutrition across 63 countries between 1971 and 1995.7
  • When given equal access to resources and education, women can bring down the number of hungry people worldwide by 16%.8

What We Do

  • Celebrate and empower girl children in Bangladesh. In 2000, THP 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 2011, more than half of the nearly 2,500 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 2011, more than half of the 9,300 children whose health was monitored, more than 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.

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Give Now

Together, let's put an end to this discrimination and support girls in reaching their full potential to grow into powerful leaders who will create a new future for their families, communities, countries and our world. Invest now to join THP in empowering girls with access to education, health services and equal opportunity.

More Resources


  1. Save the Children, Every Beat Matters Campaign
  2. Save the Children, State of the World's Mothers, 2012 (pdf)
  3. UNICEF, State of the World's Children, 2011
  4. UNICEF, A Promise Renewed Progress Report, 2012 (pdf)
  5. UNESCO, Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 2011
  6. 10x10, 2012
  7. IFPRI, Explaining Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries, 1999
  8. FAO, State of Food and Agriculture, 2010-11


Photo credits: David Snyder 2012