Social norms sanction gender inequality
In the world today, girls lack equal opportunities to exercise their rights and choice in strategic life choices, i.e. important choices in life that determine your future prospects.
Prevailing structures and social norms in local communities sanction gender inequality and allow for children being valued and treated differently based on their gender.
Prevailing social, political and economic structures discriminate girls through formal frameworks, such as laws and regulations, as well as through informal ones, such as local customs or social norms sanctioning gender inequality. These social and gender norms lead to that girls continue to face discrimination to a great extent, limiting girls' development and agency, access to their basic rights and future prospects
.Therefore, any effort to change the current situation requires addressing structural issues such as the social norms and attitudes that encourage inequalities
. Lack of decision-making power, access to information and well-being
Girls are disproportionately disadvantaged in health, education, work and family life
. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that during puberty, social and gender norms can place restrictions on girls' physical mobility and access to information, which influences their self-esteem and health-related behaviour as they head into adulthood
. Further, girls often lack decision-making power in issues regarding their health and well-being. For example, more than half of all adolescent girls and young women in rural and urban sub-Saharan Africa need approval from their husband or other family member to make decisions about their own healthcare. Lack of decision-making power, access to information and physical mobility has a profound impact on the health and well-being of girls and young women
This is further aggravated by physical, psychological and sexual abuse that girls experience to a great extent
. When girls are not encouraged to make decisions in the interest of their well-being, they might instead make decisions and adopt behaviours that are harmful for them, such as drug and alcohol abuse, crime and unsafe sex.
Girls not only lack access to information, disabling them from making informed decisions, but also to education, in particular comprehensive sexuality education from a rights-based perspective. It is well known that educating girls and women improves their health and well-being, however, girls are still less likely than boys to attend school
This is further aggravated by poverty and lack of resources prioritising girls. Girls often lack a support structure, positive role models and safe spaces that encourage them to develop free of the social norms and pressure they often face within their household and elsewhere in their community. Especially, girls often lack access to safe activities involving play and sports, which encourages children's development of cognitive and social skills
, as well as habits that promote physical well-being that to a great extent also correlates with mental well-being
. Global strategy to tackle a global problem
While the contexts, causes of these issues, and their consequences for girls, differ across countries and cultures, the root causes are the same: structures and social norms upholding gender norms that discriminate against girls and limit their opportunities to exercise their rights and choice in strategic life choices. Since the root causes, and their implication in practice for girls, are the same - albeit to varying extent - we also believe that strategies to address these issues can be implemented at a global scale, if they are locally adapted to the context and situation at hand. Therefore, our Theory of Change intends to address girls' lack of equal opportunities to exercise their rights and choice in strategic life choices, by empowering girls with agency and opportunities to make informed decisions in the interest of their well-being in order for girls to live a life they value. Snapshot of the current situation in numbers
● Globally, adolescent girls are less active than adolescent boys, with 84% of adolescent girls not meeting the WHO physical activity recommendations
● Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents
, with self harm being the second main cause of death for girls aged 10-19
● Globally, an estimated 21% of women between 20 and 24 years of age reported that they were married or in an informal union before the age of 18. This means that an estimated 650 million girls and women today were married in childhood
● The global adolescent birth rate is 44 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, compared to 56 in 2000. The highest adolescent birth rate (101 per 1,000) is found in sub-Saharan Africa
. Adolescent pregnancy leads to more birth-related complications and higher birth mortality rates than among adults.
● Globally, an estimated 18% of girls, in comparison to 8% of boys, experience sexual abuse at some point in their childhood. Additionally, an estimated 120 million adolescent girls have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts
● 20% of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 who have ever been in a sexual relationship experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner
. List of sources