As the world marks the International Day of the Girl Child, women’s rights activists point to progress on a wide array of issues but say more needs to be done to protect girls from child marriage, sexual assault and other forms of exploitation.
Experts say girls in their first decade are better positioned for success than their mothers and grandmothers were, thanks to advances in health care and nutrition, and wider access to education. But they say more must be done to keep adolescent and teenage girls in school, and to protect them from violence, unintended pregnancies and forced marriage, which remains common in much of the developing world.
“Poverty, violence, and cultural traditions oppress millions of girls in every part of the world,” said Stephanie Sinclair, a visual journalist who founded “Too Young To Wed,” which campaigns to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage, while offering services to survivors. . “It is still a global struggle to have girls valued for more than their bodies — for just their sexuality, fertility and labor.”
The U.N. children’s agency says 12 million girls under the age of 18 will marry this year, and 21 million between the aged of 15 and 19 will get pregnant.
“Every girl should have the right to decide for herself, if, when and whom to marry,” Sinclair said. “To be allowed to be children and teens, with access to gender specific health care and all levels of education; and free to determine the course of their own lives.”
The decision to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Nadia Murad, 25, who was among thousands of women and girls kidnapped and enslaved by the Islamic State group in 2014, highlighted a particularly vicious form of sexual assault.
But the #MeToo campaign has shown that less violent forms of sexual abuse and misconduct are all too common, affecting women at all income levels and across multiple industries. Even in wealthy countries, women face persistent pay gaps and other forms of discrimination.
Here is a selection of pictures showing the daily lives of girls across the globe, all taken by female Associated Press photojournalists.
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Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Growing up female, across the globe, by Maya Alleruzzo.