This includes deciding when and who to marry or have children. These decisions should be supported by comprehensive sexuality education and access to non-judgmental and confidential healthcare services.
Gender inequality and discrimination result in girls and young women being denied their right to sexual and reproductive health services. This can leave them unable to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Widespread social acceptance of violence against women means that many girls are subject to sexual violence. Stereotypes mean girls lack protection against attacks.
Girls are also more likely than boys to be living with HIV. They are more vulnerable due to biological factors, older sexual partners and a lack of access to information and services.
Each year around 3 million girls are subjected to female genital mutilation. These procedures are often traumatic, painful and can cause health complications or even death. It is usually performed without permission and denies girls the right to make decisions about their sexual health.
“Gender equality cannot be achieved until girls have the right to decide their futures”
Child marriage also occurs because girls are denied the right to decide. Child brides are more likely to experience forced sexual relations and fall pregnant. Girls who give birth before they are physically ready are at substantial risk of severe health problems or death. The situation is exacerbated in emergencies as girls are often separated from their families and lack the protection of their communities.
Inadequate menstrual hygiene facilities also mean girls are unable to decide. At least 500 million girls and women lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management while 1 in 3 schools globally lack access to adequate sanitation. As a result, girls often choose to stay at home when they are menstruating and miss out on an education which helps to inform key decisions.
Gender equality cannot be achieved until girls have the right to decide their futures. When this is the case, it is less likely that girls will experience discrimination, become pregnant or marry early. They will stay in school, secure a more lucrative job, be healthier and participate in their communities and nations.
We have a vision that all girls will have the right to decide their futures by 2030. This mirrors the targets set out in the sustainable development agenda adopted by world leaders in 2015. We are committed to ensuring this by connecting girls with comprehensive sexuality education and healthcare services as well as protecting them from harmful practices. We will also hold governments to their promises by developing a report that tracks the implementation of the global goals relating to girls.
Mayra’s voice helped cut through old arguments in Guatemala supporting child marriage. The legal age for marriage in her country is now 18.
When I heard that they had approved the new law, I felt so much happiness because I had helped make it happen. I collected signatures. I was part of a team of people who had brought about change. I felt so proud.