Who are the world's girls?

Girls are Jee, an 11-year-old female student from rural Thailand who helps support her family; or Alzira, who studies from the television at home with her brother in Mozambique amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Girls are now women like Dr. Wedi from the Republic of Congo, who educates young girls and women on reproductive health, or government ministers Olga Sánchez Cordero and Martha Delgado from Mexico who pledged to prevent and combat femicides and violence against women and girls during One World: Together At Home.

Girls and women are the millions of Global Citizensactivists, and the many organizations and Global Citizen partners from around the world who work tirelessly to empower and protect adolescent girls and women every day.

According to the World Economic Forum, it could take over 267 years to achieve gender equality. But Goal 5 of the United Nations's 17 Global Goals — to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls — is aimed at removing the many societal and economic barriers faced by women and girls.

Today, 44% of the world's extreme poor are children, and there are 105 girls for every 100 boys living in extreme poverty. But this doesn't have to be the case.

In order to break the cycle of poverty, addressing gender inequality in childhood can improve health, education, food security, access to justice, safety, and other conditions for at-risk girls and women.

Right now 129 million girls are out of school, but secondary schooling for girls is the most cost-effective and best investment against climate change. Childbirth and pregnancy complications are the second highest killers of girls aged 15 to 19, but investments in women’s and girls' health and health care access have seen maternal mortality decline by over a third. While still pervasive, child marriage is also on the decline, with 25 million fewer marriages globally compared to the last decade, allowing girls to fulfil their potential and live the lives they deserve.

The more empowered girls are, the more they can express themselves, make decisions for themselves, and lead their lives with dignity. Below, we look back at some of the biggest moments of impact made by Global Citizens in helping girls and women thrive.

1. Urgent Food Aid to Jee and Her Family in Thailand

Almost 60% of the 811 million people living in hunger worldwide are women and girls, according to the World Food Programme. In the wake of the pandemic, women and girls have found it increasingly difficult to afford food for themselves and their families due to job losses, store closures, and disruptions in the food supply chain.

One of those girls is 11-year-old student Jee from Pattani Province, located on Thailand’s rural coast. After her father lost his fishing job during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jee began helping her mother collect food from the streets to support their family.

In Thailand, and throughout the Southeast Asia region, food insecurity is on the rise driven by increasing dual impacts of climate change and the pandemic. Jee and her family are migrants from Myanmar, a demographic group that is more impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change than others.

Thanks in part to the actions taken by Global Citizens ahead of One World: Together At Home, a campaign and broadcast event held in April 2020, the Raks Thai Foundation, facilitated by CARE in Thailand, has helped Jee and thousands of others access urgent food supplies for themselves and their families.

2. Menstrual Care Access for 5,000 Schools in South Africa

Menstrual inequity causes many girls to miss school when they have their period, putting them and their futures at risk. The knock-on effect, period poverty, is driven by the stigma associated with menstruation, the inability to access and afford hygienic sanitary products regularly, and missed opportunities to learn about menstrual care and reproductive health.

That’s why, in 2018, Global Citizen and our partners decided to campaign to help the 3.7 million South African girls living in period poverty as part of the #ItsBloodyTime campaign. Global Citizens took more than 5.65 million actions in the lead up Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2018, at which South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a monumental commitment.

So far ZAR157 million (over US$11 million) of the pledge has gone toward providing sanitation products to low-income students across South Africa’s schools, and in October 2019, the government declared period products tax-free.

“We’ve never seen the government allocate this kind of money towards this issue before,” said Talia Fried of Global Citizen. “It’s incredible, it’s wonderful. South Africa has an incredible history of people coming together and using their collective voices to get things done.”

3.Putting an End to Violence Against Girls and Women in Mexico

Stopping violence against women and girls is central to achieving gender equality. Human trafficking, child marriage, sexual violence, femicide, and female genital mutilation are all ways in which violence against women and girls can occur — and rates are on the rise.

In Mexico, 10 women are killed every day, in a country where 77% of women have reported not feeling safe. In addition, 93% of crimes against women still go unpunished or unreportedPeaceful protests and demonstrations calling for an end to gender violence are now being characterized as violent protests in the country. And with little public protection from the Mexican government, local activists and women's rights defenders are putting their lives at risk to speak out against violence.

At One World: Together At Home, on behalf of the Government of Mexico, Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero and the Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Foreign Ministry, Martha Delgado Peralta, committed to address gender-based violence as part of the country’s COVID-19 response, resulting in the national launch of the Spotlight Initiative, increased training for 911 personnel responding to domestic violence calls; the creation of the “Men of Care” campaign; and the development of a resource toolbox at the Windows of Integral Attention to Women (VAIM).

Today this pledge is helping Mexican women reach out to emergency services, make violence known, and access the support systems that keep them safe, all while holding the Mexican government accountable to eliminate violence against women, ASAP.

4. Schooling for Millions of Girls Across 34 Crisis-Affected Nations

Student Alzira, from Mozambique, is set on becoming a civil engineer, but her school closed in March 2020 when the government declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Girls attending school benefits the entire community, but child marriage, child abuse, and poverty are just some of the factors that prevent girls from receiving the education they deserve. Just one additional year of school could increase a girl's future earnings by up to 20%, income that is reinvested into the family. But more than 1.6 billion children may never return to school after the pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum.

Commitments pledged to Education Cannot Wait at Global Goal: Unite for Our Future, a campaign and broadcast event held in June 2020, have helped more than 6 million children access learning resources since COVID-19 began, including Alzira and her brother in Mozambique, who are learning from home thanks to radio and television education programs like Telescola.

Early reports show that Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 first emergency responses reached 9 million children across 34 crisis-affected nations, alongside UNICEF, helping millions of children stay up to date with school.

5. Global Citizens Help #LevelTheLaw On Child Marriage in Malta

Today, more than 15 million girls worldwide are trapped in a child marriage, with an estimated 150 million more set to marry in the next decade. In fact, every two seconds, a girl gets married in circumstances beyond her control. Girls from the poorest 20% of households globally are three times more likely than their wealthier peers to get married before they turn 18.

When a girl gets married, she stands to lose her education and her health, with potential complications from pregnancy and childbirth, faces a greater risk of sexual assault and violence, and more. Addressing the circtumstancial causes of child marriage, like conflict and social norms that legitimate child marriage, are critical to ending this harmful practice.

That’s why in 2016, Global Citizens took action alongside partner CHIME FOR CHANGE to #LevelTheLaw, and advocate for meaningful legislative changes around the world to ensure girls and women are treated equally by the law. ​​

The Government of Malta stepped up, pledging to repeal Sections 199 and 200 of its legal Criminal Code. These sections were dated laws that were undeniably unfair to female victims of abduction, and the changes help ensure that girls and women are not victims of legally sanctioned discrimination.

6. Maternal Health Support for Young Mothers

Girls aged 10 to 14 are more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than women of older ages.

More than 300,000 women from Mexico, and across Africa and Southeast Asia, have gained access to life-saving maternal health care services, thanks in part to the actions of Global Citizens.

Funding mobilized during the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign and broadcast event in 2020 has so far helped the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) deliver critical maternal and newborn health care to communities in Benin, Guinea, Togo, Thailand, the Philippines, and Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UNFPA is addressing the impact on women and girls by making sure access to reproductive health services, family planning, and support to survivors of violence and exploitation continue amid the pandemic.

The funding has also helped UNFPA recruit 56 midwives in the remote areas of Benin, Guinea, and Togo, and train 46 health providers in maternal deaths support and 25 logisticians on last-mile supply chain.

All of us have a role to play in promoting gender equality, because when every girl thrives, the whole world benefits. Eliminating extreme poverty, ending hunger, and achieving true equality for all — these are the beliefs at the heart of Global Citizen’s mission, and the driving force behind every campaign and action. Join the movement by taking action with us now.


Demand Equity

6 Times Global Citizens Helped Girls Thrive Around the World

By Camille May