Girls and women bearing the brunt of global recession

'Off the balance sheet' report cover

Plan and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) have launched a new report: Off the balance sheet: The impact of the economic crisis on girls and young women, which details how girls and women are hardest hit by the global economic recession.

An update from our 2009 Because I am a Girl report on Girls and the Global Economy: Adding it All Up, the 2013 report examines the deepening impact the current economic crisis is having on girls and women worldwide.

“It is little surprise that the most vulnerable suffer more in times of austerity but to see the impact in higher mortality rates, reduced life expectancy, less opportunities and greater risks for girls and boys is stark,” said Plan International CEO Nigel Chapman.

Why girls?

In many parts of the world, girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the global economic crisis, now in its fifth year. Long-standing economic trends, gender inequality and government reductions in social spending have left girls and their families with fewer resources, lower incomes and less access to basic services, including social safety nets.

The report also finds that these effects on girls and young women are likely to reverse any advances made in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim to reduce extreme global poverty by 2015.

Facing the facts
  • Family poverty hits girls hardest. A 1% fall in a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increases infant mortality by 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births for girls, versus 1.5 for boys.
  • Food shortages and malnutrition are more common among girls than boys. Women also reduce their own food consumption to become ‘shock absorbers’ for household security.
  • Health cuts leave adolescent girls at greater risk during pregnancy. Currently, pregnancy is the leading cause of death for girls aged 14-19 years old.
Effects on a girl’s education
When a girl is educated she is more likely to be literate, stay healthy, and survive into adulthood.

When a girl is educated she is more likely to be literate, stay healthy, and survive into adulthood.

Unfortunately, a weakened economy can also affect a girl’s right to an education. When mothers work longer hours or travel far in search of work, it is often their teenage daughters who drop out of school to look after their younger siblings.

As a result, during periods of economic crisis, girls’ primary school completions rates decline by 29% compared to 22% for boys.

“The world is failing girls and women,” explained Chapman. “They need more targeted support in social protection, job creation and education if we are to turn the tide of this trend and close this unacceptable and growing gap.”

Read the report and learn more about our policy recommendations.

Girls’ rights are human rights.
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