The report, “Because I am a Girl”, written by Plan International, includes statistics that make for grim reading:
- Almost 100 million girls "disappear" each year, killed in the womb or as babies – often in countries where a male child is more valued.
- Two million girls a year still suffer genital mutilation.
- Half a million die every year during pregnancy - the leading killer among 15 to 19-year-olds.
- An estimated 7.3 million are living with HIV/Aids compared with 4.5 million young men.
- Almost a million girls fall victim to child traffickers each year compared with a quarter that number of boys.
- More than 70 per cent of the 1.5billion people living on less than a dollar a day are female.
But it is not just the developing world in which girls at more at risk because of their gender. In the UK, two women a week are killed by current or former partners. We also have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe – meaning many young women are slipping out of education and into poverty.
While girls in Britain often outperform boys in school, they are still victims of discrimination in the workplace. Women remain woefully underrepresented in the boardroom, politics and the courts. While the pay gap between young men and women is 3.7 per cent, it rises to 10.7 per cent for those in their 30s.
The report warns that the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders – which aim to eradicate extreme poverty by 2025 – are likely to fail girls.
"None of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved without gender equality. We cannot let another minute go by without acting decisively and urgently. Unless we do, we will be condemning millions of girls to a life of poverty and hardship," says children’s champion Graça Machel.
Gender inequality, in all its different forms across the globe, remains a deeply entrenched and complex problem.
There may not be any easy answers - but for the sake of millions of vulnerable girls in both the UK and the world, these issues can not be ignored.