Girls and their right to a childhood

Over 25 years ago, 196 countries around the world – including Canada – came together to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international human rights treaty that holds global leaders accountable for their nation’s children. The Convention outlines every child’s right to education, health, safety, and a life free of violence, neglect and exploitation.

Unfortunately, not all children are getting an equal chance at a happy, healthy and safe childhood. Every day, millions of girls are denied their basic human rights – simply because they’re girls. See how global issues like child marriage, early pregnancy and child labour are making girls into brides, mothers and breadwinners far too soon, and depriving them of their childhood.

End child marriage

Girls forced into child marriage.Child marriage is an issue affecting children around the world. However, it disproportionately affects girls, with close to 15 million girls married before the age of 18 every year – that means there’s a new child bride almost every 2 seconds.

Child marriage robs girls of their childhood, often forcing them to drop out of school, exposing them to violence – sexual, physical and emotional – and thrusting them into experiences that their young minds and bodies are not ready for, like motherhood.

One of the most detrimental consequences of child marriage is early pregnancy. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls worldwide – making child marriage not only a human rights issue, but a global health issue too.

[SEE ALSO: Ending child marriage can improve maternal health worldwide]

End child labour

A girl selling fruit in a market.Childhood should be filled with laughter, play and learning, not the weight and responsibility of work. Unfortunately, according to the International Labour Organization, an estimated 120 million children are involved in some form of child labour.

[SEE ALSO: Freed from a life of child labour]

As a result of gender inequalities, girls are often more vulnerable to child labour, particularly some of the worst forms – sex work and domestic servitude. Faced with poverty, families in many developing countries are more likely to force their daughters to drop out of school and find work, because girls’ education is still undervalued by far too many societies.

A safe childhood for all

global-goalsPrioritizing an end to child marriage and labour can protect the rights of millions of girls. And protecting the rights of all children is a critical component of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 global goals that will guide world leaders, policy makers, activists, and organizations like Plan International, in development work over the course of the next 15 years. In fact, goal 5 of the SDGs is specifically focused on eliminating gender inequality so that all girls and boys can reach their full potential.

To ensure the success of these global goals, we believe girls need to be given an equal opportunity to enjoy their childhood because girls’ rights are children’s rights, and children’s rights are human rights.

Sponsor a girl

You can help provide a girl in the developing world with a childhood filled with opportunities, and brighter future. Make a difference and help protect a girl’s right to education, health, water and so much more – sponsor a girl today!