As the world gets set to mark 25 years since the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to advance women’s and girl’s rights, UNICEF today warned that much more needs to be done to protect the rights of Nigerian girls, particularly from violence.
In a new report released today, A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress, UNICEF, Plan International and UN Women reveal that violence against women and girls is still common, despite significant gains in education globally.
Globally, 1 in every 20 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years – around 13 million – has experienced forced sex, one of the most violent forms of sexual abuse women and girls can suffer. In Nigeria, 1 in 4 girls has suffered sexual violence. Yet, very few of them seek professional help, preferring to keep their abuse secret. In Nigeria, only 2 percent of girls aged 15–19 years who ever experienced forced sex sought help from professionals.
The report – and associated Generation Equality campaign – note 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.
“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.
“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 – and this is long overdue,” said Peter Hawkins.
Despite the ongoing violence, some remarkable gains have been made in the 25 years since the Beijing Declaration. 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.
“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,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
Girls today are at a startling risk of violence in every space globally – both online and in the classroom, home and community – leading to physical, psychological and social consequences. The report notes that harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) continue to disrupt and damage the lives and potential of millions of girls globally. 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 percent of girls are married before their 18th birthday, and 17 percent before they turn 15.
The report calls for action in the following areas:
Celebrating and expanding opportunities for girls of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and income and social status levels to be bold and ambitious changemakers and solution designers – actively engaging their voices, opinions and ideas in dialogues, platforms and processes that relate to their bodies, communities, education and futures.
Increasing policy and programme investments to scale up promising models that accelerate progress for and with adolescent girls aligned to today’s world reality, including their skills development for the fourth industrial revolution and a generational movement to end gender-based violence, child marriage and FGM.
Increasing investments in the production, analysis and use of high-quality age- and sex-disaggregated data and research in areas where knowledge is limited – such as gender-based violence, 21st century skills acquisition, adolescent nutrition and mental health.
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