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Are Girls still Marginalized? Discrimination and Gender Inequality Today

Are Girls still Marginalized? Discrimination and Gender Inequality Today

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.'” -Shirley Chisholm

Over half of the worlds population is female, yet they unjustly receive an unfair balance in life from conception. Not one society is spared from it’s second class treatment of the female population. No matter how long and hard the fight has been, while some countries are clearly better than others, girls are still treated less favorably in all aspects over boys. Education, healthcare, employment, and lower class value, are some of the obstacles facing girls in the world today.

Gender inequality is not something that is just an issue in non-industrialized countries, but it is an issue that no country or culture has been able to escape. In the United States girls receive far less attention in the class rooms, than their male counterparts. The report, Gender Inequalities in Education, highlights the struggles of girls in the classroom and in regards to computerized education and software. There is no dispute that woman face more challenges when juggling home, family and work then men, and far more women leave their careers for the family, than do men.

There is an obvious gender imbalance in political leadership and in most career fields, girls are even marginalized when it comes to powerful and successful female role models. Children look first to their own parents for examples and inspiration, therefore when a child see their mother living a life of inequality, the cycle often continues as girls feel there is no alternative for themselves.

While domestic violence is the most prevalent form of abuse against women and girls, and it is only one of many challenges and abuse that girls disproportionately face over that of boys. Chinese baby girls are aborted, abandoned or worse; however they are not alone in their preference for male children. Woman and children are disproportionately more likely to be victims of forced migration, with 35 million refugees worldwide, more than 80% are women and children.

Many girls in Africa undergo female circumcision, otherwise known as female genital mutilation (FFM). At least 130 million girls and women are affected worldwide, and another 2 million are at risk every year, according to UNICEF. The us of FGM has changed little in the last ten years, and efforts need to be made in communities to both education on the reality and risks of FGM, as well as to place more preventative measures and laws in effect.

Woman and girls are abused by their husbands and fathers, young girls are exploited by sex tourism and trafficking, girls in many countries are forced into arranged marriages at early ages. Twice as many women are illiterate as men, due to the large gap in education, and girls are still less likely to get jobs and excel in the work place than boys. Girls are Girls, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are infected by HIV/AIDS in excessively large rates at two to three times higher than boys. Girls are more likely to become victims of trafficking, or forced into the sex industry than boys, and with at least half a million under the age of 18, they make up the largest group in the sex industry.

Plan recently issued a report, Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2007, the near 100 page report found that around 121 million children do not attend primary school , more than half of which are girls. Other findings of the report include; 82 million girls between 10 and 17 years old in developing countries will be married before their 18th birthday, a number that is higher than 50% in countries like India, Nepal and Niger. There are approximately 14 million girls under 19 years old that give birth every year, and their risk of death in childbirth is twice that of woman in their twenties.

Without gender equality none of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved. That is why this report is so valuable. “Because I am a Girl’ documents the impact of gender inequality on the lives of girls. It shows clearly and powerfully that our failure to make an equal, more just world has resulted in the most intolerable of situations. In today’s world, to discriminate on the basis of sex and gender is morally indefensible; economically, politically and socially unsupportable.” -Graça Machel, President of the Foundation for Community Development Chair of the GAVI Fund Board (Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2007, page 6)

Following the Plan report a cohort study, The “Real Choices, Real Lives’, was established to track 135 girls from their birth until their ninth birthday”s, in 2015. The study will allow researchers to visit the girls and their families to see how their daily lives are each year. The researchers will monitor the food they eat, individual health, education, to establish the impact being girls has on their lives. The results of this study will be seen a ensuing State of the Worlds Girls report.

In countries of conflict and war, woman and girls are used as pawns, they are kidnapped, enslaved, raped, mutilated, and forced from their homes. They encounter abuses on all sides or the conflicts, often including those who are there to guarantee their protection and safety. Girls are more likely to be sexually exploited, according to World Vision, 40-47% of sexual assaults worldwide are committed on girls 15 years old or younger.

Female foericide is the selective abortion, based on gender, and made a large emergence in the 20th century, this is mainly due to the ability to determine sex through the use of ultrasound. In many cultures, such as India, girls are deselected as a result of the dowry system, the practice in India has increased in the last 15 years. Other countries such as China favored boys due to the desire for the first born to be male and due to other ancient beliefs and values that a son will care for the family. In China a law was passed to prohibit doctors from disclosing the sex of a fetus, this resulted in massive abandonment of infant females and sometimes infanticide. There are virtually no cases of deselecting males in favor of females. The effects of gender based abortions and abandonment, are far reaching and have created a demographic gender imbalance, it is estimated by Plan that 100 million girls are selectively aborted or go missing while in infancy every year.

“Honor Killings’, are an archaic form of a death sentence, usually without trial or any form of defense for the victim, that are conducted almost exclusively on woman. Rarely seen as a legal issue, but a private family issue, and while many may think they only happen in the Middle East, this is a far cry from the truth. “Honor Killings’ also take place in the west, but handled as “forced suicides’. These ‘murders’ are a deplorable fact in many counties and cultures, causing many young girls to live in fear, shame and secrecy. Just last month a young girl was stoned to death in Iraq for having a Muslim boyfriend, her violent and callous, death where caught on film. (Teenage Girl Stoned to Death for Loving the Wrong Boy)

The extreme plight of girls around the world has been made very clear in numerous studies over the years, and most of the gender struggle and imbalance is right there in plain sight, therefore we must listen and take sustainable actions. The cries of many girls where not made any more clear than in a study on child abuse conducted by the Indian government more than 48% of girls said they wished they where boys, and over 70% claimed their parents “neglected” them.
(Make us boys, cry girls – Study exposes widespread child abuse, shatters myth and rips veil)

“Women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture out, we will fall off the edge.” -Unknown

What needs to be done is what woman and girls have been striving for throughout time, full equality. By equality, one means equal access to food, shelter, healthcare, education, employment and the right to life. By fighting and promoting the rights of girls around the world to have equal access, instances of many other abuses will begin to decrease, including abuse, disease, and displacement. Many instances of discrimination and inequality facing woman and girls, is due to cultural and religious stereo types that continue to remain unchallenged or blatantly ignored. One must remain aware that gender inequality is a enormous contributor to poverty around the world, and if we want to eradicate poverty we must first end the abuses and mistreatment of woman and girls around the world. Though girls do suffer unjustly more than girls, all children suffer when their mothers face inequality.

The consequences for children are great. When women cannot make household decisions, they and their children are more likely to receive less food, and to be denied essential health services and education . Women are also at greater risk of physical and sexual violence, and less able to protect their children from violence.” (The Benefits of Gender Equality)

Woman and girls around the world have been striving for independence since the dawn of time, isn’t it time we woke-up and saw that by marginalizing girls, we are only crippling our society.

“I ask no favors for my sex…. All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks.” – Sarah Moore Grimké

Links and Relevant Articles:
UNICEF – The Situation of Woman and Girls, Facts and Figures
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
The State of the Worlds Children, 2007 report by UNICEF

“Inequality rife’ for young girls
Girls around the world still face challenges of inequality, UNICEF says
A Girl’s Right to Live: Female foeticide and girl infanticide
Discrimination against girls ‘still deeply entrenched’



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict