Ahead of the World Economic Forum annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, a new report shows that girls and women are being hardest hit by the global economic recession. ‘Off the balance sheet: the impact of the economic crisis on girls and young women’ produced by Plan and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says a combination of factors have left girls and their families bearing the brunt of fewer resources, reduced access to basic services and fewer social ‘safety nets.’
In particular, these issues have had an impact on survival rates, education, employment, and protection from violence, neglect and abuse.
Economic shock absorbers
ODI Research Fellow and author of the report, Nicola Jones, says: “History teaches us that economic crises disproportionately affect women and girls, and the current global downturn is no exception. Once again, economic trends combined with entrenched gender inequality and austerity budgets have left girls and their families with fewer resources and less access to basic services. As a result, girls’ fundamental human rights are increasingly under threat.”’
Not only are infant mortality rates for girls alarmingly high, but adolescents between 14 and 19 years old are now most at risk of death in pregnancy in many countries. Food shortages and malnutrition are more common among girls than boys and many women resort to reducing their own food consumption to become ‘shock absorbers’ for their families.
As women go out to work longer hours for less money, more girls are pushed out of school into taking over domestic work. There has been a worrying decrease in the overall number of children finishing their primary education, with a 29 per cent decrease for girls, and 22 per cent for boys.
Campaigning for girls' rights
“It is little surprise that the most vulnerable suffer more in times of austerity but to see the impact in higher mortality rates, reduced life expectancy, less opportunities and greater risks for girls and boys is stark” says Plan International CEO, Nigel Chapman. The report provides a timely reminder of the human impact of recession as the world’s economic specialists meet in Davos to discuss ‘Resilient Dynamism’. “The world is failing girls and women. They need more targeted support in social protection, job creation and education if we are to turn the tide of this trend and close this unacceptable and growing gap,” adds Mr Chapman.
Plan UK’s ‘Building Skills for Life’ programme focuses on adolescents aged 10 to 18, and on girls in particular. We help them improve their ability to protect and look after themselves, make a living and make informed life choices. And over the next five years, our ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign aims to directly impact the lives of four million girls. We are equipping schools, training teachers and funding scholarships; delivering vocational training programmes; working with families and traditional leaders to raise awareness of the negative consequences of early and forced marriage, and empowering communities to speak out and take action to stop the practice, and campaigning for girls’ rights.
Read the report and find out more about Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign.