For most girls, simply being young and female places them at the very bottom of the social hierarchy; race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, ability and other factors can deepen their exclusion. The consequences are global. While the specifics vary by geography, the overall picture is the same: individual potential is unrealized while systemic cycles of inequality persist.
IN the Global South, the impact is devastating:
- Approximately one-quarter of girls in developing countries are not in school.
- Over 50 percent of all sexual assaults are committed against girls under age 15.
- Every year, an estimated 10 million girls worldwide are married before they turn 18, often with no say in whether, when, or whom they marry.
In the US, girls of color start a step behind, with no help when they fall:
- 60 percent are born in families living on low income or below the poverty line.
- More likely to experience sexual violence.
- 29-49 percent don’t graduate high school, with suspension rates 2-6X higher than white girls.
- Disproportionately in foster care.
- The fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system.
But the potential for change is enormous.
US data demonstrate that girls of color face significant barriers of poverty, violence and failed safety nets–conditions that persist throughout adulthood. When a girl is set up for success during adolescence, she will see life-long effects–and so will her community. Data in the Global South validate this: supporting and educating girls leads to later marriages, smaller families and higher incomes that are reinvested into families. That’s called The Girl Effect, and it’s true for any girl, globally.
Even more powerful is when girls work together to change the tide for themselves. Globally, we see pockets of collective girl force, with girls taking their rightful place in societies and rallying the support of their communities.