International Day of the Girl Child: A Global Girl Data Movement
The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child (IDOGC) is ‘Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement.’
The United Nations recognises the importance of the world’s 1.1 billion girls in achieving social and economic progress; however, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight the wide-scale prevalence of gender inequality.
This year, the United Nations is emphasising an explicit focus on collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. In doing so, we can adequately measure and understand the opportunities and challenges girls face, and identify and track progress towards solutions to their most pressing problems.
According to UNICEF, approximately 120 million girls under the age of 20 — about one in 10 — have experienced forced intercourse or other sexual acts. As many as 15 million girls under 18 are married every year — many of them with little or no say in the matter.
Worldwide, more than 700 million women are married as children. And child brides are often unable to make, or prevented from making, decisions to negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections.
Most often these child brides are also deprived of their right to education, as they are forced to engage in domestic work. Further, there is irrefutable evidence of gender inequality in education, health, employment, and even nutrition.
In addition, current progress to enhance opportunities for the girl child are often met with failure, as the majority of the data is not sex-disaggregated. It is also widely established that violence against girls is underreported.
Therefore, it is crucial to assess and evaluate these trends geographically through efficient data collection and tracking. The current theme of Global Girl Data Movement is a major step in the direction of empowering girls and achieving the SDGs by 2030.
Along with the Global Girl Data Movement, it will be important to make consistent efforts to avoid child marriage and unwanted pregnancy, provide protection against HIV transmission, inhibit the practice of female genital mutilation, and ensure the provision of the education and skills girls need to realize their potential.
Educated girls, unburdened by the challenges outlined above, are able to participate in the labour force, to earn a better living and to lift themselves out of poverty, whilst also contributing to overall economic growth in their societies. They are also better able to take care of themselves and their children, who are in turn healthier and better educated, meaning that the health and poverty alleviation effects are intergenerational.
Population Matters advocates the mission and values associated with IDOGC, and recognises that unsustainable population growth undermines our efforts to achieve gender equality and ensure a safe and healthy life for all girls.