"Girls are practically invisible in laws and policies worldwide, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and abuse of their rights"
By Lin Taylor
LONDON, Feb 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Researchers are closer to understanding the "invisible" lives of millions of girls - why they flunk school or marry young - with the launch on Wednesday of a digital database tracking girls' rights around the globe.
The database will log policy documents on issues from health to marriage to education, a children's aid agency said, with the hope that greater scrutiny will improve their life chances.
Girls are one and half times more likely than boys to miss out on primary education, with 130 million girls not in school at all, according to Plan International.
But the group says the lack of data on the daily realities of girls worldwide has made it difficult for policymakers to devise programmes aimed at achieving gender equality.
"Girls are practically invisible in laws and policies worldwide, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and abuse of their rights," the aid group said.
With more than 1,400 global policy documents on its platform, the charity said it hoped policymakers would use this data to better understand how girls are disadvantaged, hold governments to account, and draw up better programmes to support those most at risk.
Globally, more than 2 million girls under 15 become mothers each year, the World Health Organization estimates, but the number is uncertain as official data tends to only track births of women aged 15 to 49, even though girls get pregnant younger.
UNICEF estimates about 150 million girls around the world have been sexually assaulted.
About 15 million girls a year are married before the age of 18, Girls Not Brides estimates.
Plan says governments must invest in data collection, and capture meaningful statistics that reflect what girls face in their communities.
"We can't resolve what we don't know. Unless we fully understand the scale and spread of gender inequality in our policies and systems, we cannot protect the futures of millions of girls," said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, head of Plan International.
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)
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