The world's 600 million adolescent girls are the innovators, artists, scientists and mentors of tomorrow

However, poverty, violence and lack of opportunity disproportionately affect girls and women, preventing them from achieving their full potential:

  • Pre-pandemic, more than 130 million girls were out of school; post-pandemic, over 10 million more girls may not ever return to school because of lockdown disruptions and already strained infrastructure and staffing 
  • At least 200 million women and girls in 31 countries have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • 750 million women and girls alive today were married before the age of 18
  • Violence against women is frequently normalized: nearly 40% of both girls and boys between the ages of 15 and 19 surveyed consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife
  • At least 60 percent of countries continue to discriminate against daughters’ rights to inherit land and non-land assets in either law or practice, therefore restricting their financial independence
  • Bearers of the Water Burden, women and girls spend 200 million hours collectively each day gathering water, taking them out of school and risking their futures (See 13-year-old Aysha’s eight-hour daily collection journey here)
  • According to the United Nations Human Development Report’s Gender Inequality Index, at the current rate of progress, countries would require over 250 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity; for example, women spend over 250 minutes daily on unpaid care work, as opposed to men, who spend around 80 minutes daily

The Beijing Declaration was a milestone in advancing equality and equity for women and girls

In 1995, some 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries met in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. They created the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing the rights of women and girls, specifically calling on the global community to:

  • Eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls including in education, skills development and training, health and nutrition
  • Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls 
  • Promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their needs and potential 
  • Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labor and protect young girls at work 
  • Eradicate violence against girls 
  • Promote girls' awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life 
  • Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls 

The progress since the Beijing Declaration has been remarkable, but girls around the world — especially those living in rural areas, those with disabilities and those in need of humanitarian assistance — still face issues like child marriage, education inequality, gender-based violence, climate change and poor self-esteem.

UNICEF works to ensure that every girl has the opportunity to fulfill her potential

Around the world, UNICEF works with partners to ensure that every girl and woman can live free from violence, attend and complete school, choose when and whom she marries and earn equal pay for equal work. UNICEF has identified the biggest challenges facing girls today, integrates gender empowerment across all programming sectors and strengthens institutional strategies and systems to provide solutions that help:

  • End child marriage
  • Advance girls' secondary education
  • Promote gender-responsive adolescent health, including prevention and care for malnutrition, pregnancy, HIV and HPV
  • Support menstrual health and hygiene
  • Prevent and respond to gender-based violence

Program highlight: for women and girls, access to water means freedom

For many girls around the world, access to safe water and hygiene support are the foundation to freedom and equity. Annually, UNICEF invests $1 billion in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs in over 110 countries, building solar-powered water pumps for communities, providing education on and products for menstrual hygiene management, equipping schools with private changing rooms, single-sex bathrooms and handwashing stations and more. Accessible WASH programs prevent girls from missing school and falling into child labor, adolescent pregnancy and forced marriage. Learn more about UNICEF’s work in WASH here.

Some countries lose more than $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys. Given the right tools and opportunities, there is no limit to what young women can accomplish.

Support girls globally by helping fund empowerment programs.