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Eight-year-old Johaumi smiles brightly, dressed in a pink sweatshirt and her dark hair in a long braid. Johaumi is a Venezuelan migrant living with her mother and siblings in a dusty border town in northern Colombia. The area is a hotbed of trafficking and brutality and is now home to thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have been driven out of their country by hunger, extreme poverty and violence. They sleep on the street. Photo credit: Sacha Myers / Save the Children, October 2018.

Johaumi, 8, is a Venezuelan migrant living with her mother and siblings in a dusty border town in northern Colombia. The area is a hotbed of trafficking and brutality and is now home to thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have been driven out of their country by hunger, extreme poverty and violence, including gender-based violence. They sleep on the street.

Gender Equality and Girls' Empowerment

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future. Worldwide, patriarchal gender norms and gender discrimination drive violence against women and girls.

Our vision is for a world where all girls and boys are equally heard and valued, where they have equitable access and time to devote to education, to work, to rest and to play. This is a world built on transformative change – to the dismantling of patriarchal, discriminatory gender norms and the inequalities they sustain. These norms affect both boys and girls but have a disproportionate impact on girls, preventing them from claiming their rights, exposing them to harmful practices, driving rights abuses in their homes, relationships and communities, and through embedded structural inequalities that shape their lives from childhood through adulthood. Some girls face even greater challenges due to multiple and intersecting forms of deprivation and marginalization based on poverty and characteristics such as ethnicity, displacement and location. The world we want is a world in which no girl faces gender-based discrimination, suffers violence or marries before her 18th birthday, and every last girl fully enjoys her right to be protected from harm, to learn, survive and thrive. Her world is one in which her aspirations know no limits and she is free to fulfil her potential, to have equal opportunities, to decide her own future and empower those around her.

When girls are educated, empowered, healthy and free from violence and discrimination, their communities are more prosperous and stable. Investing in gender equality is not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. But girls around the world still face lifelong gender-based inequalities that begin in childhood:

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence:

  • Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced sex or other forced sexual acts. [1]
  • Girls represent nearly three out of every four child trafficking victims, with the majority trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. [2]
  • By 2030, over 150 million more girls will marry before they are 18 - despite global progress. Today, the poorest girls are 4 times more likely to marry in childhood than the richest. [3]


  • Complications during pregnancy and childbirth is the number one cause of death of girls aged 15-19 worldwide. And 90% of births to girls aged 15-19 occur within marriage. [4]
  • Around three-fifths of all maternal deaths take place in humanitarian and fragile contexts. [5]
  • Every day, 507 women and adolescent girls die from pregnancy and childbirth complications in emergency settings. [6]
  • Malnutrition poses a variety of threats to women and girls specifically, including weakening their immune systems making them more susceptible to infections, and impacting their capacity to survive childbirth. Children born of malnourished women and girls are more likely to have cognitive impairments and higher risk of disease throughout their lives. [7] Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition because of the increased rate at which they are growing and their bodies are changing. Adolescent girls need protein, iron, and other micronutrients to support this growth spurt and increased iron during menstruation.


  • 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school. [8]
  • Girls are more likely than boys are to never set foot in a classroom. [9]
  • Girls living in countries affected by conflict are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys are. And adolescent girls affected by conflict are 90% more likely to be out of school than girls living outside of conflict-affected contexts. [10]

Time deficit:

  • Girls account for two-thirds of all children who perform household chores for at least 21 hours per week. And girls are more likely than boys to perform double work duty- meaning both work in employment and in household chores. Research suggests chores that take up at least 21 hours or more a week negatively impact the ability of children to attend and benefit from school. [11]

Change is needed to ensure that girls are the drivers of their own futures

To achieve these goals, Save the Children is committed to working with governments to end child marriage globally and to create the conditions where every girl has the opportunity to not only live, but also to thrive and achieve her full potential. Save the Children is striving to ensure:

  • Decision-makers are accountable to girls: International and regional actors, governments and donors are held accountable for advancing girls’ rights and to accelerating progress to end child marriage and its consequences. Read more about Save the Children’s Girl Champions speaking out for the rights of girls in their communities and globally!
  • Increased financing for gender equality, including gender-responsive budgets: Governments and donors increase investment in gender equality and to end child marriage and mitigate its consequences by fairly financing access to sexual and reproductive health services, protection from all forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, and access to safe, quality education for the most deprived and marginalized girls.
  • Equal treatment for girls: Governments, donors, partners and communities work together to empower girls and change the patriarchal laws and social norms that limit girls’ potential and drive rights violations like child marriage.

Save the Children’s gender equality work was guided by our Every Last Child campaign, which aimed to reach the most vulnerable children, particularly girls and children affected by conflict and the Save the Children Gender Equality Policy: Transforming Inequalities, Transforming Lives.

For more resources on gender equality and girls’ empowerment, click here

[1] Save the Children, Many Faces of Exclusion (2018) p.25
[2] UNODC (2016). Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016, p. 7, 28.
[3] Save the Children (2018)., p. 2
[4] Id., p.24.
[5] UNFPA, State of the World’s Population, Shelter from the Storm (2015), p. 2
[6] OCHA, World Humanitarian Data and Trends (2016), p. 39
[7] Elizabeth Ransom and Leslie Elder, Nutrition of Women and Adolescent Girls: Why it Matters, Population Reference Bureau, 2003
[8] World Bank
[9] Save the Children (2018)., p. 21
[10] Ibid
[11] Id., p. 23