A new report, released by Plan International, examines the rights of girls throughout their childhood, adolescence and as young women. The Because I am a Girl: The State of the World's Girls 2010 - Digital and Urban Frontiers report looks at the prospects and perils facing girls on two of the 21st century's fastest growing areas - the boom in city populations and the explosion of IT and communication technology.
While there are great opportunities, prejudice and poverty is excluding millions of girls from taking advantages of the possibilities on offer. Urban poverty, lack of proper housing and sexual harassment can make many girls feel unsafe.
As the report states: “For the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas. And the numbers are growing rapidly – each month, five million people are added to the cities of the developing world. We can estimate that by 2030 approximately 1.5 billion girls will live in urban areas. This means that violence against girls in slums and on the streets is also growing. Adolescent girls in particular may be pushed into begging, transactional sex and other forms of exploitation and cruelty, as an escape from extreme poverty and homelessness. And yet cities also have the potential to offer girls more opportunities than ever.”
Cyberspace can also be hazardous - a hunting ground for traffickers and bullies. The report states: “Access to new information technologies and the media can make a huge impact on young women’s lives, introducing them to new ideas and ways of thinking that open up real possibilities and opportunities but, like life in the city, these new opportunities are not risk free. As many technologies become cheaper and easier to access, it is crucial that adolescent girls and young women, as well as young men, are able to benefit from their use. This means not only having access to the technologies, but the skills and expertise to be able to use them to full effect – and to know how to keep themselves safe when doing so.”
The report argues that girls need to be able to gain the skills to protect themselves and to recognize both the threats and the opportunities that await them on the city streets and online.