Girls in the developing world face a vast variety of barriers -- simply for being born a girl. In rural, poverty stricken areas, most girls are not only deprived of the same opportunities as their male counterparts, but are also straddled with an array of burdens that no child should have to face.
Millions of girls are deprived of education each year. A number of factors contribute to this: long standing cultural stigmas, poverty, priority placed on a boy child and menstruation are a small sample of influences that may impede a girl's education.
Being kept out of school at an elementary age can be detrimental to a girl's development, and usually leads to a number of other situations that strip young girls of agency and opportunities. One is child marriage -- most girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18, though many are far younger, with child brides often wedded to men much older. Without the resources or to plan her own family, child brides often become pregnant soon after marriage, and the complications of pregnancy and childbirth sometimes take a fatal toll. Complications associated with pregnancy remains the #2 cause of death for girls, ages 15 - 19, in the world.
Forcing girls into assuming adult responsibilities while children contributes enormously to the cyclical effects of poverty. Children born to young and unready mothers are far more likely to suffer child mortality, poor living conditions, and malnutrition.
Some girls may be sold into sex trafficking; girls make up 80% of sex trafficking victims worldwide, exposed to heinous degradation of both mind and body. Girls can become vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, composing the largest bracket of HIV/AIDS youth diagnoses, and are the most frequent victims of sexual assault.
It is clear that the prevailing treatment of girls in the 21st century is a violation of basic human rights. Amounting research also indicates that countries suffer immensely due to gender gaps in education and culture; net losses of GDP accumulate each year, cyclical poverty persists, and child mortality rates remain higher than could be.
Girls are powerful. Imagine what could happen if we ensured that every girl stays in school, stays safe, and stays healthy. The possibilities are endless. Girls can be the force behind economic engines. Girls can be the answer to cyclical poverty. Girls can be the response to child mortality rates. Girls can lower the spread of HIV/AIDS. The possibilities are endless.
And so: as a global community, we must stay committed to the cause of girls -- girls, who are infinitely deserving of growing up into a generation of women for whom the sky is the limit.