Investment in data gathering & application necessary to ensure no girl is left behind
10 October 2016, Accra, Ghana
Out of the 7 billion plus population the world over, 1.1 billion are girls. These are females from the period of birth through adolescence. The International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC), which is marked annually on October 11, focuses on promoting girls' empowerment and highlighting the unique challenges they face around the world. These challenges include child marriage, teenage pregnancy, child labour, violence, discrimination, gender inequality and limited access to education and health care. The IDGC creates opportunity for advocacy to see that girls get the investment and recognition they deserve as citizens and as powerful agents of change within their own families, communities and nations.
According to the UNFPA, 13% of Ghanaian girls between the ages of 15-19 have begun childbearing. What it means is that these girls are more likely to drop out of school and are often at risk of HIV and STIs infections, death during childbirth (child pregnancy is a leading cause of maternal mortality for girls), and debilitating medical conditions like obstetric fistula. Infants born to adolescent mothers are 60% more likely to die in their 1st year. They are also more likely to be malnourished, and malnutrition costs Ghana GHC4.6 billion annually according to the Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) Ghana report.
On education, while there is gender equity in primary school enrolment, girls drop out of junior high school at a faster rate than boys and fewer girls than boys attend senior high school. Gender-based violence, both physical and sexual, is widespread, affecting more than 40% of girls aged 15-19 years. The 2014 national child labour report, indicates that 20.8% of girls between 5-17 years in Ghana are in child labour, and that 47% of all child labourers are girls. These girls are often exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment.
Meanwhile, data on very young adolescents (10-14) is almost nonexistent in Ghana as much of the surveys conducted, such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHSs), target respondents aged 15-19 years and above. Additionally, 10-14 year olds are minors and there are important ethical challenges associated with collecting data from them on different aspects of their lives, attitudes and views without parental consent.
This year’s IDGC focuses on the importance of data in highlighting the challenges and opportunities faced by girls in their daily lives, as well as the need for a “Global Girl Data Movement” to address gender gaps in data collection, analysis, dissemination and use. Specifically it emphasizes the rights of girls and the relationship between progress for girls and progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs, adopted by member states of the United Nations in September 2015, is transforming national and local development efforts throughout the world in a commitment to leave no one behind in economic, social, and environmental development. However, in order to assess, monitor and communicate the wellbeing and progress of girls we need age and sex disaggregated data, as advocated for in the Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health (2016 – 2030).
“Investment in data is necessary to be able to measure and understand the opportunities and challenges girls face, inform interventions by Government and development partners, and track progress towards meeting girls’ most pressing needs in Ghana. We need this data to ensure that no girl is left behind” says the United Nations Resident Coordinator Christine Evans-Klock.
To mark this year’s Day of the Girl Child, the UN calls on Governments and development partners to join UNICEF’s “Global Girl Data Movement” to address gender gaps in data collection, analysis, dissemination and use. Better data will provide a basis for holding all of us – governments, communities, development partners – accountable for investing in making sure that girls have an equal chance to succeed, live healthy lives, realise their dreams, and contribute to their societies.
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