As the current global economic crisis has unfolded, we have tried to document it’s impact on girls and young women around the world.
The crisis has disproportionately affected women and children, and evidence shows that girls and young women are particularly vulnerable.
Today, we’re breaking down how the global economic crisis is impacting girls and young women. We’re looking at four key girls’ rights – survival, development, protection, and participation – and how they’re being hindered by our global economy
1. Girls’ rights to survival are more vulnerable in times of crisis.
The health of mothers and children can tell us a lot about how the economy is affecting girls’ rights to survival. A contraction in a country’s economy results in the growth of the infant mortality rate. More alarming is that the growth is much higher for girls, than it is for boys.
As well, girls who get pregnant in their teens are at a higher risk of complications during childbirth than older mothers. This means that cuts in health funding that happen during a financial crisis can result in negative effects on teenage girls.
We can also see the impact of the global economic crisis when it comes to girls’ nutrition. Today, families in developing countries are paying 80% more for the same basic foods they bought before the crisis.
Families that were already poor, such as single-parent households, are the most affected. Women become ‘shock absorbers of household food security.’ That means, women are reducing their own food intake to make sure there is more for their children.
2. Girls’ right to development have been undermined by the global economic crisis.
When national budgets are cut, primary school completion rates fall more steeply for girls than for boys because of entrenched gender roles.
A study conducted with 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean revealed that girls – who often leave school to do household duties to free their mothers so they can find work – were more affected than boys. Rising school fees and transport costs have also forced families to choose which of their children to educate; daughters typically lost out to their brothers.
A lack of decent work and rising ‘vulnerable employment’ for young women, leaves them with low wages and no job security. Overall, youth unemployment is high, but young women are even more likely to be unemployed than young men. In Greece, for instance, the unemployment rate for young women is 60.4 per cent, compared with 46.1 per cent for young men.
3. Girls’ rights to protection from violence, abuse and neglect have also been weakened during the crisis.
Children and young people in low-income households have been increasingly vulnerable to child labour and abuse. As family budgets and government safety nets have been stretched to breaking point, putting children to work has become an important coping mechanism.
In Nicaragua, for example, girls in urban areas have been taking over their mothers’ domestic responsibilities so mothers are free to find work. Others are seeking out paid jobs of their own, to boost family income. Limited employment options mean girls may be forced to take jobs that leave them open to exploitation and abuse.
4. The effects on girls’ rights to participation in decisions that affect their lives at the family and community levels have been largely overlooked.
With family and government budgets under increasing strain, children’s civil rights often take a back seat to other concerns. Children and young people, however, have a great deal to say about how the crisis is affecting their lives.
As long-term forecasts suggest that today’s children may spend their adult lives mired in the consequences of this crisis, policymakers would be well advised to listen to their concerns and involve them in responses.
Read more about the impact of the global economic crisis on girls in Plan’s brand new report, Off the balance sheet.