International Day of the Girl Child: an opportunity to reflect on Millennium Goals
11 October 2015 marked International Day of the Girl Child; a day where the world considers the particular challenges faced by girls around the world.
This year, the international community is assessing the progress made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) since their implementation in 2000 and making determinations for the Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years.
Girls born at the turn of the new millennium have now achieved adolescence. But, what has the world achieved for them?
MDG 1. Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
The girl child living in a developing country may now be less likely to experience extreme poverty than before. The global number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015, with most of the progress occurring since 2000.
Despite this, women still face a greater risk of living in poverty than men due to their unequal access to paid work, lower earnings, lack of social protection and limited access to assets.
MDG 2. Achieve Universal Primary Education
The girl child may have had greater access to primary education and has improved literacy skills. The primary school net enrolment rate in developing regions has reached 91% in 2015, up from 83% in 2000.
The number of out of school children globally has been cut almost in half since 2000.
The gender gap in youth literacy has fallen since 1999 and greater proportion of youths, especially women, can read and write. However, while improvements have been achieved, a gender gap in literacy rates remains with average youth literacy rates estimated to be 93% for men and 90% for women.
MDG 3. Promote Gender Equality And Empower Women
The girl child may have a greater chance of accessing paid employment, yet will receive less earnings than her brother.
The proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35% in 1990 to 41% in 2015. Yet women remain at a disadvantage in the labour market.
Significant gaps remain between women and men in the labour market.
Despite their progress in education, women face a more difficult transition to paid work. Barriers to women’s employment including household responsibilities and cultural constraints still exist. These factors contribute to limiting women’s earnings.
The girl child will face barriers if she chooses to enter politics or seeks a leadership role when she is an adult. Even though the global average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled, it remains low at only 22%. Progress in leadership positions has also been slow with only 16% of parliamentary leaders across the world currently women.
MDG 4. Reduce Child Mortality
The girl child most probably has received vaccinations against disease. Her siblings are more likely to have survived their childhood. Child mortality rates are falling faster than ever. The global under five mortality rate has declined by more than half.
Despite this improvement, the current mortality rates do not meet the MDG target. In 2015, every day, around the world, about 16 000 children under five die.
MDG 5. Improve Maternal Health
The girl child would have seen her mother survive the birth of her siblings and her siblings would have most probably been delivered by a trained health professional.
Maternal mortality has been cut nearly in half and more than 71 % of births were assisted by skilled health personnel globally in 2014. This is an increase of 59% since 1990.
However, in the developing countries, significant gaps remain between rural and urban regions.
MDG 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria And Other Diseases
The girl child is more than likely to be under less threat from disease than she was 15 years ago. Anti malaria interventions have been expanded and tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment have been increased.
HIV infection has dropped by 40% since 2000 and the number of children orphaned by AIDS is beginning to fall. However, in 2013 there were still 17.7 million children worldwide who had lost one or both parents due to AIDS related causes.
MDG 7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability
The girl child and her community would more likely have access to improved drinking water and improved sanitation.
In 2015, 91% of the global population uses an improved drinking water source, compared to 76% in 1990.
The proportion of urban population living in slums in developing regions fell from 39.4% to 29.7% between 2000 and 2014.
Yet deforestation, forest degradation, over-exploitation of marine fisheries remain threats to ecosystems and to livelihoods.
Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population and is projected to rise.
MDG 8. Develop A Global Partnership For Development
The girl child would have witnessed the effects of overall increased development assistance from overseas aid. Overseas development assistance increased by 66% in real terms between 2000 and 2015.
However global overseas aid is now decreasing and thus, while the debt burden of developing countries fell dramatically over the first decade of the new millennium, it is now expected to rise.
A country’s external debt burden affects its creditworthiness and vulnerability to economic shocks.
Supporting The Girl Child Into Adulthood
Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated and healthy life, not only during the formative years, but also as they mature.
The global community has made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during their childhood. But it is now time to consider greater investment as the girl child enters the second decade of her live.
This greater investment is needed to ensure quality secondary education and higher education, prevention of child marriages, services regarding reproductive health and prevention against gender based violence.
Girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girl children of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, household heads and political leaders.
As the global community moves forward on the Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years, it is time to recognise that achievements made in supporting young girls in reaching their potential, is the key factor in achieving a sustainable and equitable world.
Reference: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015. (United Nations, New York. 2015)
APHEDA – Union Aid Abroad works to improve the opportunities for women and girls in developing countries.
APHEDA is not a charity organisation but rather works closely with local women’s groups and women’s communities and unions to develop projects from a right’s based approach which will make a difference in the lives of women.
The following APHEDA projects aim to build self reliance for women through the support to educational training.
1. Timor Leste: Literacy and Workers Rights
More than 60% of adult women in rural regions of Timor Leste are illiterate. APHEDA is assisting GFFTL organisation to deliver literacy and income generation training so that women in rural regions will have a better chance to participate in the Timorese society.
2 Refugee Women on the Thai- Burma Border
APHEDA works with the Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO) in five refugee camps in Thailand, near the border with Burma. The camps are mostly made up of Karen ethnic people with the largest camp having over 110 000 residents. The KWO aims to improve conditions for women in the camps by providing skill training to assist them to earn an income.
3 Cambodia: Rural livelihoods support through skills training for women
APHEDA in partnership with the Department of Women’s Affairs in Cambodia supports vocational training courses for women living in rural areas. These courses assist women to gain skills and the ability to earn an income for their village and families. Skills such as horticulture, fish farming and home gardening assist women farmers to improve their productivity and thus improve their rural livelihood.
IEU members can assist APHEDA to make a difference to a woman’s life by making monthly donations to support the above women’s projects. Join APHEDA online at www.apheda.org.au