07 March 2016

International Women’s Day: 10 quick facts on girls

NEW YORK, 7 March 2015 – To mark International Women’s Day and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women’s empowerment, UNICEF presents a statistical snapshot of progress and trends for girls and women.

Water and sanitation
  • At least 500 million women and girls lack a private place to change their sanitary protection during menstruation. This is equivalent to every female living in developed countries. 
Child protection
  • Close to half of all girls aged 15-19 worldwide, around 126 million, think a husband is sometimes justified in hitting or beating his wife. 
  • Globally, 1 in 4 young women alive today were married in childhood versus 1 in 3 in the early 1980s. In the Middle East and North Africa, the percentage of women married before age 18 has dropped by about half during the last three decades. 
  • The overall chance that a girl will undergo Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting today is about one third lower than it was three decades ago.
  • Globally, gender parity in tertiary education – including university and technical and vocational college – was achieved in 1999. In 2012, more young women than young men went to university globally and the difference was greatest in Latin America and the Caribbean.  
  • South Asia shows the greatest improvements in gender parity at all level – primary, secondary and tertiary – but in sub-Saharan Africa enrolment is lower for girls than for boys. 
  • Girls are outperforming boys at school – in the majority of countries with data, girls perform better than boys in reading.  
  • In 2013, an estimated 250,000 adolescents (aged 15-19) were newly infected with HIV, nearly two thirds (64%) of whom were adolescent girls. 
  • In all low- and middle-income countries, adolescent girls (aged 15-19) had a lower rate of comprehensive knowledge of HIV than adolescent boys but were more likely to become sexually active before age 15 than their male counterparts.
  • Despite growing evidence of the protective effects breastfeeding can have for women and their children, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding has remained almost unchanged since the year 2000.  
  • Stunting rates are typically higher among boys than girls – while the difference is generally small, it is greatest in Africa.

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