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UN Report: Young Girls Still Face Gender Inequality

2016-12-8

A new United Nations report says a lack of education for girls in developing countries may be partly to blame for a rise in poverty worldwide.

The U.N. released its 2016 State of the World Population Report last week in Jordan's capital, Amman. The writers examine the well-being of 10-year-old girls as signs of success or failure of a country's development.

The report says most of the world's 10-year-old children live in developing countries. In many areas, girls face barriers to good education, healthcare and safety. The report points to problems with continued gender inequality among half of the world's young population.

On the day of the report’s release, a group of students sang about gender equality at a press conference in Amman. The students take classes at the city’s Princess Alia School for Girls.

The report says 89 percent of the world’s 125 million 10-year-olds live in developing countries. It also says 35 million 10-year-old girls live in countries said to be very unequal on issues of gender.

Princess Basma Bint Talal is a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. Population Fund. She told reporters, “In some parts of the world, a 10-year-old girl looks forward to her horizons opening up” so she can reach her goals. But in other places, “she is up against closed doors.”

Princess Basma Bint Talal speaks at a press conference in Amman for the release of the 2016 State of the World Population Report.
Princess Basma Bint Talal speaks at a press conference in Amman for the release of the 2016 State of the World Population Report.

Princess Basma said that girls’ chances for success are limited when their futures are decided by other people or their environment. Some barriers can threaten their safety and social or economic growth.

Ten-year-old girls in many poor countries face the risk of being married off. More than 60 million girls are not in school. They do twice as much work around the home as boys their age, and they serve as unpaid laborers more than boys do.

Every 10 minutes, an adolescent girl dies of violence. Many of them are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as a result of rape. Suicide is the second largest cause of death for young girls.

Jordan’s Princess Basma said, “Let us remember that we are all responsible. Let us remember that our every word and deed, positive or negative, can affect the road a girl travels” from this turning point in her life. She continued, “This is what will shape her role in society, which is to say our society, and our world.”

The U.N. report says that investment in the health, education and empowerment of 10-year-old girls can triple a girl’s lifetime earnings.

Daniel Baker is the humanitarian coordinator for the U.N. Population Fund’s office in Amman.

“Failing to invest in girls is nothing less than planned poverty. Unless we invest in girls, we’re planning to have a poorer future.”

This is a point that cannot be noted enough, he said.

The report closes with the message that doing damage to girls is harmful not only to their communities, but to humanity as a whole.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Zlatica Hoke wrote this story for VOANews. Alice Bryant adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

gender - n. the state of being male or female

horizon - n. the limit of what is possible in a particular field or activity

adolescent - adj. a young person who is developing into an adult

deed - n. something that is done: an act or action

triple - v. to cause something to become three times as great or as many