NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The needs of the world’s women and young children are the focus of many aid programs but adolescent girls largely remain an overlooked and underserved segment of the population, according to experts.
Caught between early childhood and adulthood, adolescent girls often face unique health, social and economic problems due to early marriage, pregnancy, infection with HIV, lack of education, poverty, often hazardous work conditions and domestic violence.
Less than 2 cents of every development dollar goes to programs specifically serving adolescent girls, according to the Nike Foundation. But investing in the health and education of these girls is key to the economic and social success of families, communities and countries throughout the world.
Girls Discovered, a project of the Girls Count initiative of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, has undertaken a comprehensive and ongoing project to map and provide data on the status of the world’s adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 19. The information is designed to help donors, policy makers and implementing agencies target their investments.
Here are 10 Global Girls facts drawn from their research:
- There currently are 583.9 million girls between the ages of 10 and 19, making up 8.5 percent of the global population. By 2025, the number of adolescent girls is expected to grow by more than 23 million.
- Babies born to teenage mothers are particularly vulnerable to infant mortality due to the health risks of early childbearing to mother and child. For every 1 percent drop in per capita GDP, infant mortality for girls increases by an average of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 compared with 1.5 deaths per 1,000 for infant boys.
- One in every nine girls will be married before her 15th birthday. In the next decade, 14.2 million girls under the age of 18 will be married every year.
- Across South Asia, 26.6 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 24 are illiterate.
- Across Africa, an estimated 101 million girls aged 10 years and older have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting.
- About 240 million, or two fifths, of the world’s girls live in poverty on less than $2 per day. Many are forced to leave school for work to support their families.
- Globally, 4.4 million girls between the ages of 15 and 24 are living with HIV.
- Girls are particularly at risk of having to work because of their lower rates of education and literacy, and 16 percent of the world’s girls are engaged in child labour.
- In developed countries like the USA, Canada and much of Western Europe, more than 95 percent of girls spend time with friends on a weekly basis, key to social and emotional adolescent health. Girls in the developing world, due to factors such as early marriage and the need to work, tend to spend much less time with friends, stunting emotional growth. In Mexico, 1 in 5 girls never has the chance to spend time with friends.
- Across the developing world, more than one in 70 girls heads a household due to losing parents and caregivers to HIV/AIDS or armed conflict. In many cases, this means dropping out of school and looking for a job.
Source: Girls Discovered: Global Maps of Adolescent Girls