Is a girl born in Australia today better off than one born a decade ago? It turns out the answer, even in a wealthy, democratic country with bipartisan support for gender equality, is not a simple yes, according to new analysis by charity for girls’ equality Plan International Australia.
The research, published today on the 10th annual International Day of the Girl, a day celebrating the importance of girls’ rights, found that a combination of factors – including the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, conflict raging in many regions, harmful gender stereotypes and misogyny, the rise of far right-wing politics and many other intersecting issues such as systemic racism, ableism and transphobia – has profoundly set back progress on girls’ rights around the world.
International Day of the Girl has for ten years shone a spotlight on issues affecting girls and their rights.
The research found that in the last decade, the visibility of girls’ rights has significantly risen and importantly, that much of the change and campaigning for girls’ rights is being driven by girls themselves.
The global review found that improvements have been recorded on key gender equality indicators, such as education, child mortality (which has dropped to 34 deaths per 1,000 live births for girls) and legal protections from certain forms of abuse and harmful cultural practices, such as the banning of child marriage in the Dominican Republic in November 2020 and FGM/C in South Sudan in April 2020.
However a growing youth population means that more girls are being denied rights today – rights that are guaranteed under international law – than in 2012. Together, this means that of the 144 countries in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Gender Index, which account for 98% of the world’s girls and women, not one country has achieved gender equality.
As of 2020, more than three billion girls and women still live in countries with ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ scores for gender equality.
A 10-year snapshot of girls’ rights in Australia
In Australia, progress for girls has been similarly frustrating. There are over 3.7 million girls and young women in Australia aged 24 years and under. Despite their numbers and their powerful intersecting identities, girls, young women and gender diverse young people encounter deep and systemic inequities in Australian society that impact them every day and in every space.
The report’s key findings on equality for girls in Australia included:
“From the inspiring and defiant young women and girls protesting in Iran right now, those leading climate justice movements in schools and on the streets, to the brave and determined young women fighting to be heard in politics – and demanding that politics to be safe and equal – when girls are freed from societal restrictions around gender everyone benefits,” said Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena.
“We celebrate all girls today but know that change has not been equitable; it has been slow, it has been contested at every turn and continues to be, and many girls, especially those who face intersecting risks, are looking to remain that way for the rest of my life and theirs. How can we stand by and watch this happen?” she added.
“All parents want is a better world for their kids, so as a mother it is deeply troubling to see that all girls, in all of their diversities – including my daughter, who is almost 10 years old – still remain on an unequal footing in Australia,” said Ms Legena.
“The rights of First Nations girls, children with a disability, LGBQTIQ+, children and young people, children in humanitarian and conflict situations, displaced girls, and girls in poverty remain under threat. Where gains are made, they are ripped away by humanitarian crises and other shocks, with COVID-19 being a prime example. We are nowhere near on track for gender equality by 2030, but we must ensure that all girls have a better future in their lifetime.”
“The 10-year-old girl is the single most powerful investment we can make, according to the UN. If we can unlock her potential , we can unlock a better world for everyone. In the next decade, I want every girl 10-year-old girl to feel confident that she is equal, she is safe and she can live up to her full potential and realise all her dreams without any restrictions.”
“I’ve grown up with International Day of the Girl – and every year I learn more about the global magnitude of discrimination and denial of rights and freedoms of girls,” added Plan International Australia ambassador Yasmin Poole.
“I speak out for girls’ rights because I can’t look away. When I was young, I vividly remember witnessing racism and sexism against my mother. At the time, I carried these experiences with feelings of shame and hopelessness. I feel agency by sharing my own story and helping to amplify the realities of girls and young women that are so often left on the sidelines. I am equal parts fascinated and determined to change the systemic drivers that harm us while privileging others.”
NOTES TO EDITORS