Across the world, to varying degrees, girls face discrimination.
A new study released in Bangkok on Thursday by the organisation Plan International, which works in over 50 developing countries in support of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, throws up some disturbing responses which show just how big the challenge of gender equality really is where it matters probably most of all – in childhood.
Here are the relevant findings from the study, based on 'primary research with more than 4,000 children' :
65 per cent of participants from India and Rwanda totally or partially agreed with the statement 'A woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together'. A further 43 per cent agreed with the statement: 'There are times when a woman deserves to be beaten'.'
Over 60 per cent of children interviewed in India for this report agreed that 'if resources are scarce it is better to educate a boy instead of a girl'.
Here's more :
- There are 75 million girls out of primary and lower secondary school.
- A girl in Southern Sudan is more likely to die in child-birth than finish primary school.
- As many as 150 million girls and young women under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact. The first experience of sexual intercourse in adolescence for a large number of girls is unwanted and even coerced.
- Globally, young women aged 15 to 24 years account for 64 per cent of HIV infections among young people. In sub-Saharan Africa young women aged 15 to 24 are more than twice as likely to be infected as young men in the same age group.
If that is not grim enough, add to that this grim statistic. Life can be brutal for both girls and boys, for different reasons :
'Pressure to be tough can kill: violence, suicide and road traffics account for 60 per cent of all deaths of under 24 year old men in Europe. In the Americas, under 30 year olds are 28 times more likely to be homicide victims than elsewhere in the world. (World Health Organisation).'
A summary of the study notes : 'There is general consensus that men and women need to be given equal opportunities to show case their talents and change can only come when men in power, social and family institution play a unique role to ensure gender equality.'
At a ceremony on Friday at the Siam Society near Bangkok's Asoke intersection, close to where I live, Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra signed a gender commitment.
Many have been wondering what Thailand's first female prime minister, 44 years old and a mother of a nine year old boy, believes about issues like gender equality.
I have not seen anything really substantial on that front – though to be fair the Prime Minister has a lot on her plate, and it was a huge positive that she appeared at the Plan International event. The gender commitment, one hopes, will be more than symbolic.
In her speech Ms Yingluck said 'We need a comprehensive approach, that looks at strengthening the family, improving education, addressing poverty and changing the mindset of people.'
In his short speech Mark Pierce, Asia Regional Director of Plan International 'Boys are equally affected by poverty, discrimination and lack of opportunity in many parts of the world.'
But 'Around the world girls face twice the level of discrimination because of their gender leaving them suffering at the bottom of the social ladder.'
'The challenge... cannot be tackled by girls and women alone. Fathers, brothers, husbands and boyfriends all have a part to play.'