Girls must be at the heart of sustainable development efforts

  • EU must ensure girls benefit equally from the Sustainable Development Goals, according to a coalition of NGOs.

Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the EU must do more to ensure girls’ rights and gender equality are at the heart of its external action.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious effort yet to reduce poverty, tackle inequality and injustice, and protect the planet.

The organisers of the European Week of Action for Girls are therefore calling for the EU to live up to its commitments under the SDGs, ensuring that girls and women benefit equally from the Goals and participate equally in their implementation and monitoring.

Double discrimination

Despite progress towards gender equality, millions of girls around the world are still being denied the opportunity to reach their full potential, facing the double discrimination of being young and female.

“Girls and women continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty, injustice, violence, disease, discrimination and a lack of access to resources,” says Cecile Vernant, DSW’s Head of EU Advocacy. “There is no country in the world that can claim to be truly gender equal. This is both unfair and unjust – no girl should be denied the right to realise her potential simply because of her gender.”

Leaving no one behind

If properly implemented, the SDGs will help create a safer, more equal and just world which leaves no one behind – including girls.

“The Sustainable Development Goals represent a historic opportunity to change the world for girls. Yet these Goals will count for little if they remain just words on paper,” says Tanya Cox, Acting Head of Plan International EU Office and Co-Chair of the Beyond-2015 European Taskforce. “The EU must ensure the Goals and targets are translated into concrete results and improvements in the lives of children, especially girls, the world over.”

Given the universality of Agenda 2030, EU Member States are also committed to meeting the Goals and targets in their own contexts.

“The EU is facing a major crisis, in particular the safety of women and girls fleeing conflict, which makes it imperative that the EU strengthens its own commitments to empowering women and girls in the SDGs, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised,” adds Vicky Claeys, Regional Director IPPF European Network.

The EU’s role

The EU must lead the way with political commitment, progressive transformative policies, funding and other means of implementation that ensure that gender equality is at the heart of the global endeavour to achieve all of the SDGs.

The EU must:

1)     Ensure data is disaggregated by sex and age at a minimum, and within age for children and young people to capture specific age brackets (e.g. 0-5, 6-10, 11-14, 15-18). Data should also ideally be disaggregated by other factors such as income, race, ethnicity, disability, migratory status and geographic location, which would reflect the intersecting nature of inequalities that girls face;

2)     Institutionalise a system of accountability and reporting that is based on clear targets and indicators and make sure that reporting on the achievement of goals takes place at the highest level;

3)     Ensure that every EU policy area, as well as all programmes and funding, align to the SDGs at a minimum, and that no policy undermines the progress and human rights of girls;

4)     Make sure that its spending and programming decisions are contributing to gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, and that these expenditures are tracked through gender-responsive budgeting.



For more information please contact Ludovic Wahis, Policy and Communications Officer, World Vision Brussels & EU Representation, +32 (0) 2 274 18 67,

About the European Week of Action for Girls 2015

The European Week of Action for Girls (Week of Action) is an annual week-long event which aims to ensure that girls’ empowerment is promoted and their rights are protected and fulfilled in the EU’s external action, through adequate policies, funding and programs.

Through a series of policy, advocacy, media, campaigning and youth-focused events, the Week of Action highlights the power and potential of girls as development actors and agents of change, as well as the particular challenges they face in realising their rights and the EU’s role in addressing these.

Now in its fifth year, the European Week of Action for Girls is organised by a coalition of civil society organisations working on topics linked to gender equality and/or children’s and youth rights, notably in development and humanitarian settings.

This year’s edition takes place under the patronage of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. It takes place from 11-17 October 2015, to coincide with and celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child (11 October).

Facts about girls

  • 98% of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation and 55% of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labour are women and girls;
  • As of 2012, there were 62 million girls of primary and lower secondary school age not in school
  • 1 in 5 adolescent girls are out of school;
  • Girls with no education are three times as likely to marry by 18 as those with secondary education or higher;
  • Over 100 million young women living in low and lower-middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence
  • Today, a young girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than to complete primary education;
  • Girls make up 55% of the 28.5 million primary-age children out of school in conflict-affected countries;
  • A 2011 survey of sexual violence against women in the DRC found that estimates of rape among women aged 15-49 meant approximately: 1150 women raped every day; 48 women raped every hour; 4 women raped every 5 minutes;
  • Globally, 30% of girls aged 15-19 have experienced violence from an intimate partner;
  • A recent study in Canada found that 85% of victims of online sexual exploitation were girls and the average age was 13;
  • Globally women’s average wages are 24% less than men’s – at the current rate of change it will take 81 years for the gender pay gap to close completely.

Source: The State of the World’s Girls 2015: The Unfinished Business of Girls’ Rights. Plan International

Agenda of the Week

To view an agenda of events taking place during the week please go to