The Washington Post

International Girls’ Day: Five facts about global girls’ rights

Balki Souley, a 14-year-old in Niger, lost her son in childbirth earlier this year after suffering from malnutrition for months, bleeding profusely and nearly dying.

Souley was one of the teen girls profiled in a recent story on the rising incidence of child marriage in Niger by the Washington Post’s Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage, with one out of every two girls marrying before the age of 15.

But Niger isn’t the only country in which girls’ childhoods are cut short by marriage, childbirth or abuse. The United Nations General Assembly designated Oct. 11 as International Girls’ Day in order to bring attention to the inequalities between boy and girl children around the world.

View Photo Gallery: Each day, more than 25,000 girls younger than 18 are married across the world. Here is a look at some of them.

Here’s a look at the odds young women and girls around the world are up against:

• UNICEF describes child marriage as “the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls.” Every three seconds, a girl under the age of 18 is married somewhere in the world, according to Reuters’ TrustLaw

Young Maasai girls write at a church house where they have sought shelter after escaping from female circumcission at their villages near Narok, some 170 kms west of Nairob. (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

• There are appoximately 2 million girls living with obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal. A fistula can cause chronic incontinence, leading to skin infections, kidney disease and social isolation. The World Health Organization says delaying the age of first pregnancy is one of the best ways to prevent obstetric fistula.

7-year-old child bride Guddu Bai sits at the back of a truck after being wed in Biaora, about 135 kilometers from Bhopal, India, on May 7, 2011. (Prakash Hatvalne/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

• According to UN Women, about half of sexual assaults globally are committed against girls under the age of 16. And for about a third of women, the first sexual experience was forced, according to the agency.

Slate, partnering with the New America Foundation, has an interesting map showing gender disparities by country, based on metrics such as adolescent fertility, literacy rate and life expectancy. It may come as no surprise that countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East appear to be the most unequal, while Canada and Europe are the most equal:

They also point to one potential solution: Biometric identification, such as finger prints or retina scans, that would allow mobile or digital aid payments to be routed directly to women and girls instead of corrupt politicians.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Don’t be ‘that’ sports parent | On Parenting
Miss Manners: The technology's changed, but the rules are the same
A flood of refugees from Syria but only a trickle to America
Play Videos
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
Kids share best advice from mom
Using Fitbit to help kids lose weight
Play Videos
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
Transgender swimmer now on Harvard men's team
Portland's most important meal of the day
Play Videos
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
How much can one woman eat?
The signature drink of New Orleans