No country for young women – the ten worst places to be a girl

Huge regional gaps in life expectancy, teen pregnancy, school results and poverty, warns report


Girls have fewer life chances tied to where they are born in England and Wales, finds a landmark new study.

Plan International, a girls’ rights charity founded during the Spanish Civil War, has mapped quality of life for girls across England and Wales, rating local authority areas on five measures:

  • childhood poverty
  • life expectancy
  • teenage pregnancy
  • GCSE results
  • how many girls under 18 were not working, studying or training.

It finds huge discrepancies across the country, with a six year gap in life expectancy between the best and worst areas.

As the Guardian reports, girls born in Middlesbrough (the worst area for girls over all) between 2012 and 2014 have a life expectancy of 79.8 years, while girls born in Chiltern, Buckinghamshire, (one of the best overall) are expected to live until 86.7.

For teen pregnancy, the highest level was 40.5 per 1,000 girls, in Tamworth, Staffordshire, compared with 7.6, the lowest, in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

The ten best local authority areas for girls are in the Southeast and Midlands. They are (from one to ten): Waverley, Rushcliffe, Chiltern, Mole Valley, Epsom and Ewell, Rutland, Elmbridge, Wokingham, St Albans, and East Hertfordshire.

The ten worst are in the Midlands or the North, with Hastings on the South coast being an exception. They are (from one to ten): Middlesbrough, Blackpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Knowsley, Hastings, Kingston upon Hull, Salford, and Sandwell.

(You can see these plotted on a map here.)

Lucy Russell, UK girls’ rights campaigner for Plan, and co-author of the report, said:

‘Our conclusion is that despite being one of the most developed countries on earth, there are too many girls in the UK who aren’t enjoying their rights.’

Sexual harassment is also a major problem for girls and young women, whether at school, work or online, along with gender stereotypes, according to 103 interviews conducted by Plan and the University of Hull.

Russell said:

‘We heard very strongly from girls that they were facing harassment every day, that meant they were facing harassment in schools, they were getting name-calling, unwanted sexual touching, groping.

They also told us that they don’t feel safe online and that they are scared when they walk to and from school.

We also heard that girls feel very, very concerned about their body image and about the messages they are getting from social media and magazines, translating to a very serious extent into mental health issues.’

The report makes four key recommendations:

  1. Girls’ Committees where girls and policy makers can pool ideas about how
    services can better meet girls’ needs.
  2. Sex and relationship education on a mandatory basis to tackle sexism, harassment and violence against girls. This must involve boys and parents.
  3. Public data from more research so local authorities can target problems and girls can hold power to account.
  4. Joined up thinking across departments so these issues don’t fall through the cracks.

See: Housing benefit cap will force over 85 per cent of women’s shelters to cut services or close

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