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Report: Opportunities and dangers for 21st century girls

September 22, 2010

Because I am a Girl is Plan's campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty. As part of the campaign, Plan is producing one report each year until 2016, the target year for the Millennium Development Goals.

“Literacy now is not just learning to read and write but learning how to use a computer.”
Rana, 16, Alexandria, Egypt


The perils and prospects facing girls in today’s urban and digital worlds are examined in a new report by Plan. The study looks at two of the 21st century’s fastest growing areas – the boom in city populations and the explosion of IT and communication technology and how it affects girls and young women’s lives.

The publication, Digital and Urban Frontiers: Girls in a Changing Landscape, says that there are great opportunities in both the developing and developed world.

Many girls who migrate from rural areas will find better education, healthcare and economic opportunities in the cities, as well as more autonomy and independence. Opportunities to access and be trained in information technology particularly can make huge impact upon girls’ lives and vastly extend their worlds.

But the report says prejudice and poverty exclude millions of girls from taking advantages of the transformative possibilities on offer.

Nigel Chapman, Plan’s Chief Executive said: “These booming areas present new opportunities for girls and young women. But both cities and the internet are not always planned with their best interests in mind and are not without risk for young women.

“Without the right measures, urban and virtual spaces are at risk of becoming yet another place from which girls are either excluded or simply scared to enter.

“The upcoming Millennium Development Goals summit will put the spotlight upon the enormous daily challenges facing millions of children. But if we ignore the inequity of opportunity for girls in these two key areas – the existing poverty divide between the haves and have-nots could become an unnavigable chasm in the 21st century.”

Urban poverty, overcrowding, unlit streets, lack of proper housing and transport and sexual harassment can mean many city girls do not feel safe. And those forced to live on the streets are most at risk of exploitation, violence, crime and disease; often abused by the very people supposed to protect them.

Cyberspace can also be hazardous - a hunting ground for crime syndicates and traffickers wanting to lure young girls into the sex industry, pornographers to dupe children, or bullies to harass girls with threatening messages.

The report argues that girls need to be able to gain the skills to protect themselves and to recognize both the threats and the opportunities that await them on the city streets and Web.

The report, which is the fourth in Plan’s Because I am a Girl series of annual publications on the state of the world’s girls, say international, national and municipal authorities must make it their responsibility to make both the cities and the Internet safe and girl-friendly.


Plan’s 8-Point Call to Action on Girls’ Rights in the City

  1. All girls should have the right to access safe education in the city
  2. All girls should have the right to be free from violence in the city
  3. All girls should have the right to secure and decent housing
  4. All girls should have the right to move safely in the city
  5. All girls should have the right to affordable and accessible services in the city
  6. All girls should have the right to age-appropriate and decent work in a healthy urban environment
  7. All girls should have the right to safe spaces in the city
  8. All girls should have the right to participate in making cities safer, more inclusive and more accessible.

Download the report

Because I am a Girl: The state of the world's girls 2010
Digital and Urban Frontiers: Girls in a Changing Landscape
The 2010 report looks at the lives of adolescent girls in two of the fastest growing arenas in the world today – the urban environment and the digital world.

Adobe Acrobat fileSummary (488kb | 6 pages)

Adobe Acrobat fileFull report (7.03mb | 199 pages)

Learn more about Plan's Because I am a Girl campaign, or connect with us on Facebook.


 Samella MccClary-Brown October 2, 2010 5:17 PM
Want to learn about the campaign
 nonation self October 4, 2010 8:38 PM
the life in you is god amen
 Ann Jones October 5, 2010 12:19 AM
I am giving a talk to our community about the feminine face of AIDs. How can I get a hard copy of this report. I do not wish to print of 199 pages.
 Plan USA October 5, 2010 9:20 AM
@Ann Jones - we have a limited number of hard copies of the report available. Please contact to receive a copy.