Investing in 10-year-old girls will yield huge demographic payoff towards Global Goals – UN

Girls take a break during their school day at Zilla Parishad Primary School in Chandrapur District, Nagpur, India. Photo: UNICEF/Dhiraj Singh

20 October 2016 – If all of the ten-year-old girls living in developing countries that currently drop out of or do not attend school were to complete their secondary education, it would lead to an additional $21 billion per year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed today in its annual State of the World Population Report.

But practices like forced marriage, child labour, female genital mutilation and others that sabotage girls' health and human rights undermine the 2030 Agenda. In particular, such practices begin to create significant adverse impact for girls around the age of ten, as they severely restrict their potential as adults and therefore their participation in the economic and social progress of their communities and nations.

“Without their contribution,” the report warns, “the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) may never be achieved.”

More than half of the world's 60 million 10-year-old girls live in 48 countries with the worst gender equality, and nine out of 10 live in developing countries. Ten is a pivotal age because it typically marks the start of puberty, at which point in some areas of the world, a girl is then viewed as a commodity to be bought, sold, or traded. Girls at this age are forced to leave school, marry, bear children, and live a lifetime of servitude.

“Impeding a girl's safe, healthy path through adolescence to a productive and autonomous adulthood is a violation of her rights,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babtunde Osotimehin. “But it also takes a toll on her community and nation. Whenever a girl's potential goes unrealized, we all lose,” he added.

Luckily, research has shown a growing number of proven policy options that can dismantle some of the barriers that hold girls back. These include banning practices such as child marriage and providing cash transfers to parents of girls in poor households in order to finance education – which keeps girls in school longer. Other successful approaches have included life-skills training and age-appropriate sexual education for girls approaching puberty.

UNFPA's re urges countries to focus on scaling up interventions to reach more girls, particularly those who are poorest and most vulnerable.

For every year of education that a girl receives, she will see an additional 11.7 per cent raise in wages later in life, compared to 9.6 per cent for boys. Yet, twice the number of girls than boys aged between six and 11 will never start school, and 10 per cent of girls aged between five and 14 do twice the number of household chores per week than boys – more than 28 hours. Every day, some 47,700 girls are likely to be forced into marriage before the age of 18.

“How we invest in and support 10-year-old girls today will determine what our world will look like in 2030,” Dr. Osotimehin says. “With support from family, community and nation, and the full realization of her rights, a 10-year-old girl can thrive and help bring about the future we all want.”


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Fundamental change needed to address women’s health in conflicts, disasters – UN

Related Stories