Governments can and must do more to end the daily sexual abuse and exploitation of girls and boys worldwide, an event at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday highlighted, including through a newly launched tool designed to help countries track progress and gaps.
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In the wake of the migration crisis and other humanitarian emergencies, women and girls are experiencing unconscionable trauma. Gender-based violence – including child marriage and forced pregnancy – exploitation, and trafficking often escalate during conflict, threatening the lives and well-being of women and girls around the world. Women and children account for roughly 75 per cent of those displaced by conflict. About 20 per cent are women of reproductive age.
Mercy Akout is a firm believer in educating women and young girls. A South Sudanese refugee living in Kenya's camp, Mercy escaped forced child marriage to become a vocal activist, fighting for women's rights. She works in her community, encouraging families to send their daughters to school and stop harmful cultural practices like child marriage.
When she first arrived in Jordan as a refugee from Sudan five years ago, Waed was painfully shy, refusing to talk to anyone outside her family. Now, sprinting around a basketball court flinging passes and shouting encouragement to her teammates, she says she is unrecognizable from the girl she once was. Waed attributes her transformation to Reclaim Childhood, a non-profit sports programme for refugee and local girls in Jordan.
Trends in child marriage Over the past decade, child marriage has continued to decline. Globally, the proportion of young women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent, from 1 in 4 to about 1 in 5.
Two years ago, 16-year-old Salia Shemsu waited to be married off. Like many young girls in Ethiopia, it was only a matter of time before she would need to leave her family for a husband. Then an opportunity she never expected arrived. A local announcement called for young people to join an entrepreneurship programme. Salia responded immediately. Salia’s district is among 30 in Ethiopia where a joint UNFPA-UNICEF programme is now empowering vulnerable adolescent girls and boys to support themselves and make healthy decisions – by providing them with the knowledge and skills to do so.
Sonjida was forced to flee her home and now lives in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. An estimated 693,000 Rohingya have been driven into Bangladesh (as of April 2018). Over half of them are children. A month after arriving at the camp Sonjida got married and now she is pregnant.
Azima, 16, wants to change perceptions about people living with HIV and AIDS in Uzbekistan. Read her full story: https://blogs.unicef.org/blog/hiv-darkness-light-story/
Mariéme Jamme, who received no education until she was 16, is now a technology entrepreneur with a mission to train young women. Mariéme is one of 16 World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders (YGLs) on a visit to Kakuma, and the Kalobeyei settlement in north-western Kenya, to meet refugees and host communities.