The lives of adolescent girls in developing countries hold more promise than in previous generations, but pervasive violence still holds them back, reveals research commissioned by Plan International.
As part of the research interviews were conducted by Ipsos MORI with over 4,000 girls aged 15 to 19 in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. The majority of girls surveyed remain in fear of violence, whether in the home, on the street, at school or as a result of forced marriage or pregnancy.
A shocking 68% say that girls who marry young are more likely to experience violence in the home. Outside the home, girls reported threats of violence on the way to school and in public places. In Ecuador, 63% of adolescent girls said girls don't feel safe on the way to school. While 66% of girls in Pakistan, and 85% of girls in Zimbabwe said girls should not be seen in public places after dark.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International, said: “Throughout the girls’ responses, violence, or the fear of violence, is a pervasive theme, and adolescent girls consistently see early or forced marriage as a factor in increasing the risk of violence.
“Despite significant progress on girls’ rights over the last 15 years, we need to recognise that adolescent girls in particular face multiple challenges, and we should work to protect them from all forms of violence.”
Girls Speak Out
The research follows an earlier study, 'Hear Our Voices', that identified the most pressing issues in girls’ lives. This study, ‘Girls Speak Out’, asked follow-up questions on violence in girls’ lives, early marriage and pregnancy, what could be done to combat the challenges they face and who should be responsible for responding to those challenges.
In response, girls said they want more control over their lives. While a majority of girls (75%) believed that they are becoming more valued in their communities, and 88% felt they have more opportunities than their mothers at the same age, 30% said their concerns seldom or never matter in the community.
Many girls urged their peers to actively take more control over their lives. One girl from Nicaragua said: “I would encourage them [girls] to open up their eyes when there is an abuse situation and report it, do not remain silent.”
Only 37% of girls believe that they are often or always given the same opportunities as boys
The girls also said that they need more information to avoid early pregnancy and marriage, and that they lack the confidence to stand up for themselves when they would like to.
“Only 37% of girls believe that they are often or always given the same opportunities as boys,” said Ms Albrectsen.
“This is disappointing. While there’s no doubt that girls have high hopes for an improved future, there is still much to be done to ensure they can overcome the numerous barriers to fulfilling their potential.”
Download the Girls Speak Out study