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
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
Historical context: advancing equality and equity
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 or humanitarian settings and those with disabilities — still face issues like child marriage, education inequality, gender-based violence, climate change and 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
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.