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Global Goals: It’s Time to Raise Our Sights for Girls’ Rights

LONDON - With the New Year marking the official start to implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), we must commit to decisive steps to transform the lives of girls, who are so often left behind, says Plan International.

The world’s governments have committed to use the next 15 years to make sweeping development gains to end hunger, achieve gender equality, ensure sustainable use of the planet’s resources, and end preventable deaths.

But girls continue to be among the most excluded and discriminated against members of society. Special efforts are needed to ensure they realize their rights within the SDG framework and the world fulfills its promise to ‘leave no one behind.’

“Despite the progress made in recent decades, girls’ rights remains unfinished business. Never before has there been so promising a moment to push for global change for girls. Nations have 15 years to transform millions of girls’ lives, and the work must start now,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International.

Education is a key human right. But at least 1 in 5 adolescent girls around the world is denied her right to an education by the daily realities of poverty, conflict, and discrimination. Every day, girls are taken out of school and forced into work or marriage where they risk isolation and abuse.

The Sustainable Development Agenda requires the closing of gender gaps in education, nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene. It requires an end to the violations of girls’ rights in areas such as sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence, and to harmful practices including child, early, and forced marriage.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a powerful framework, and together with governments, civil society, and children themselves in the 71 countries in which we operate, we will work to make sure SDG promises are realized for children, especially girls,” added Ms. Albrectsen.

Through the Because I am a Girl campaign, launched in 2007, Plan International has led the call for girls’ rights to be recognized as human rights. The campaign has focused on the power of quality education to achieve progress for girls.

An educated girl is more likely to marry later and have fewer, healthier children. She has a better chance of staying healthy and remaining alive. Children born to mothers over the age of 18 are much more likely to survive than those born to younger mothers. For each year a girl stays in school, her income will rise by 10-20%.

To match the wider scope and ambition of the SDGs to transform the lives of girls, Plan International will broaden its Because I am a Girl campaign to help drive the transformation of power relations so that girls can finally learn, lead, decide and thrive everywhere.

Through research, policy analysis, advocacy, scaled-up programming, and communications, Plan International will boldly tackle some of the biggest challenges for girls such as teen pregnancy; freedom from violence and fear; learning for life; economic and political empowerment; and FGM and child marriage.

Over the next 15 years, based on evidence of what works, Plan will build the momentum on girls’ rights through far-reaching policy change, strengthened laws, and transformative programs while holding the world to account.

Plan International will work alongside girls and boys, with communities, governments, civil society, international agencies, and the private sector, to deliver on the ambition of the sustainable development goals for true gender equality.

“The 2030 agenda has created great hope in many quarters. And as the world starts 2016 we must build the momentum to ensure that promises made to children and youth are delivered,” said Ms. Albrectsen.


  • There are 62 million girls of primary and lower secondary school age not in school. 1 in 5 adolescent girls are out of school.
  • Girls with no education are three times more likely to marry by 18 as those with secondary education or higher.
  • Every 2 seconds a girl becomes a child bride, endangering her personal development and well-being. Child brides are often disempowered, dependent on their husbands, and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education, and safety.
  • Girls who give birth before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than girls in their early 20s. Infant deaths are 50 percent higher among babies born to mothers under 20 than among those born to women in their 20s.
  • 99 percent of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation globally are women and girls.
  • 90 percent of countries have at least one law that restricts economic equality for women.
  • 75 percent of women’s employment in developing regions is informal and unprotected.
  • Family poverty has more impact on girls’ survival than boys’. A 1 percent fall in GDP increases infant mortality by 7.5 deaths per 1,000 births for girls as opposed to 1.5 deaths per 1,000 births for boys.
  • In 2008, for the first time, more than half of the world’s population—3.3 billion people—lived in urban areas. 1/8th of the global population are migrants. More adolescent girls than boys are migrating into cities. Girls may leave homes in search of a better life; to find a job, access healthcare, get an education, or to escape early marriage, violence, and sexual abuse.
  • Adolescent girls face unique challenges in cities with safety featuring among their biggest concerns. Plan International’s urban program found that in Delhi 96 percent of adolescent girls do not feel safe in the city. In Kampala, 45 percent of girls reported sexual harassment when using public transport. In Cairo, 32 percent of girls felt they could never talk to anyone about their safety concerns.

About Plan International USA

Plan International USA, part of the Plan International Federation, is a child-centered development organization that believes in the promise and potential of children. For more than 75 years in over 50 developing countries, Plan has been breaking the cycle of child poverty. Everything Plan does—from strengthening health care systems to improving the quality of education, to advocating for increased protection and beyond—is built with, and owned by, the community. The result is a development approach designed to improve the lives of the youngest members of the community for the longest period of time. For more information, please visit

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