Violence against women and girls is still common, despite significant gains in education globally, a new UN report has shown.
The report, launched on Wednesday, is in line with the Generation Equality campaign to open a global conversation for action and accountability on gender equality and to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The report by the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), UN Women and Plan International, a non governmental organisation, shows that one in every 20 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years has experienced forced sex.
This is one of the most violent forms of sexual abuse women and girls can suffer.
While there have been remarkable gains for girls in education, little headway has been made to help shape a more equal, less violent environment for them, according to the report titled ”A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress”
“Twenty-five years ago, the world’s governments made a commitment to women and girls, but they have only made partial good on that promise.
“While the world has mustered the political will to send many girls to school, it has come up embarrassingly short on equipping them with the skills and support they need not only to shape their own destinies but to live in safety and dignity,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
According to the report, one in every 20 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years – around 13 million – has experienced forced sex.
Yet, very few of them seek professional help, preferring to keep their abuse secret.
In Nigeria, only two percent of girls aged 15–19 years who experienced forced sex sought help from professionals.
On a positive note, the report shows that the number of out-of-school girls has dropped by 79 million in the last two decades worldwide.
”In fact, girls became more likely to be in secondary school than boys in the last decade. Yet, violence against women and girls is still common, ” the report shows.
Girls today are at a startling risk of violence, whether it is in school, at home, or online as well as throughout their communities, which leads to physical, psychological and social consequences.
A New Era for Girls also covers harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), which continue to disrupt and damage the lives and potential of millions of girls around the world.
According to the report, each year, 12 million girls are married in childhood, and four million are at risk of FGM.
In Nigeria, about 19.9 million girls have experienced FGM. Forty-three per cent of girls are married before their 18th birthday and 17 per cent before they turn 15.
The report, however, said some remarkable gains have been made in the 25 years since the Beijing Declaration, despite ongoing violence.
“Globally, more girls are going to school and staying in school than ever before – though, in Nigeria, there is still a long way to go to ensure equality of education for girls, especially in the north-east, where 60 percent of out-of-school girls in Nigeria are located.”
What should be done
In a statement made available to ‘PREMIUM TIMES’ on Wednesday, UNICEF warned that much more needs to be done to protect the rights of Nigerian girls, particularly from violence.
“Sadly, after 25 years, the world is still a very violent place for girls and women – including in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative.
Mr Hawkins said the country should invest in protection services to give survivors of violence opportunity to speak up.
“But there are things we can do to change this – and we need to do them urgently. We need to invest in protection services and support programmes that give survivors of violence an opportunity to speak up and to heal.
”We need to work with local communities to change practices that make women and girls vulnerable to violence and abuse. And we need to speak to our children – girls and boys – to ensure they grow up knowing that such violence is unacceptable.
“Together, we can end violence against women and girls, this is long overdue,” Mr Hawkins said.
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