Girls don't see themselves as having rights, global report finds
Published Monday, October 6, 2014 10:46AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 6, 2014 2:18PM EDT
Young adolescent girls across the world do not see themselves as having rights or the power to make decisions about their own lives, according to a new global report. Meanwhile, a separate focus group conducted in Canada revealed Canadian girls have similar concerns.
The Plan International report, released ahead of the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, highlights the main concerns of adolescent girls in 11 different countries across the globe.
For the report, Plan International spoke directly with more than 7,000 girls and boys between the ages of 12 to 16, in Asia, Central and South America and Africa about the challenges young girls face in their daily lives.
Rosemary McCarney, president and CEO of Plan Canada, said the similarity of the responses was remarkable.
"The consistency across the entire planet, including our country, is extraordinary," she told CTV's Canada AM. "The things they identified in terms of being the least empowering dimensions of their lives were marriage, pregnancy and violence."
Some of the report's findings include the following:
- One in three girls reported that they never speak up and say what they think around boys;
- 49 per cent of girls said they always participate in class as much as boys;
- 38 per cent of girls never or seldom feel comfortable using their school latrines;
- One in three girls said they never decide if they will become pregnant;
- Only 26 per cent of girls said that they will always decide if they marry.
McCarney said concern about girls' personal safety was a dominant theme throughout the discussions, with many girls in the study noting that getting to and from school is one of the least safe moments of their day.
This has real consequences, as safety concerns for girls travelling to and from school can result in them missing classes or even dropping out, the report says.
In September, Plan Canada held a small focus group discussion with Canadian girls and found that they were also concerned about their personal safety.
"They do not feel safe," McCarney said about the Canadian focus group. "There's the perception that they always have to be wary, they always have to be thinking about walking in the dark or going to a social destination."
She added that she was particularly moved when one Canadian girl noted that in Canada, it's easier to teach girls to be safe and protect themselves, than it is to teach boys to respect girls.
"I thought that was a pretty profound statement," McCarney said.
Girls in Canada also spoke about the social pressure they felt to marry by a certain age.
"We talk about early forced marriage in Africa or Asia, and we condemn it, but for the girls in Canada it plays out differently here," McCarney said. "By the time they get into their 20s, they're feeling like if they don't get married or they haven't moved along on that course, somehow there's something wrong."
The Plan International report calls for long-term changes to social norms so that girls' perceptions of their own capacities can grow. The group said it will work with family and community leaders and governments to achieve these changes.
"Girls can only flourish when social norms are addressed in serious ways through intentional action, over the long term," the report says.