Gender Based Injustice

The F word. No, not that one, though feminism might be just as hostile a word for you to hear. Thanks to widespread media and a few different feminist movements throughout the last two centuries, this term is no longer unfamiliar. Actually, it's one that conjures up a variety of emotions, and I have the difficult task before me of not knowing what reaction the word feminist causes in you. Can I ask you a favour though? Will you leave your exposure to feminism aside for a moment? I’d like some open-minded communication, just you and me. You see, I want to talk about how gender impacts people in poverty around the world. And for that, frankly, I see it as quite irrelevant whether you think feminism is the end of the world, or progress towards happy change.


Depending on where you are born, being born a girl can be fatal. In fact, I believe that the defining injustice of our day is the oppression of girls and women in poverty. Many of today’s social injustices are imbalanced to affect more girls than boys and the sheer quantity of hinderances to a girl's potential is often crushing. Don’t just take my word for it, read below.

Social Injustices THAT Exclusively Affect More Girls Than Boys

  • Child Labour - Families often choose to send their daughters to work instead of school in nations with few restrictions on child labour. [1]

  • Child Marriage - Each year approximately 12 million girls aged under 18 get married. That’s 32,877 girls each day; nearly every two seconds. Forced child marriage violates a girl’s human rights, interrupts schooling, limits opportunities and increases her risk of maternal mortality and domestic violence. [2, 3, 4]

  • Conflict - All forms of violence against women increase during disasters and displacement. Girls and women face heightened risks due to displacement and the breakdown of normal protective structures and support. [5]

  • Economic Restriction - Globally, over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. Women are paid 23% less than men, and women are less likely to have access to financial institutions. [6]

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (a non-medical practice removing female genital organs). It is not uncommon for girls to be cut before the age of five. [3]

  • Gender Based Violence - Women aged between 15 and 45 are more likely to be injured or killed from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Forms of gender based violence are intimate partner violence, sexual harassment or rape (including rape as a weapon of war), FGM, child marriage, bride burnings and acid attacks. [3, 7]

  • Gender Bias - Long-held misconceptions and cultural norms can keep girls from reaching their full potential and can further inequality in society. Globally, girls and women spend an estimated 200 million hours every single day collecting water. [1, 8]

  • HIV - Globally, 52% of all adults living with HIV are women. 75% of HIV-infected youth between the ages of 15-24 are girls. [9, 10]

  • Honour Killings - Honour killings are when a woman’s relative murders her for disgracing the family and they are on the rise. [7]

  • Human Trafficking - Girls and women account for 71% of human trafficking victims, with girls representing nearly three out of every four child trafficking victims. [3]

  • Infanticide - Infanticide is the systematic elimination of a gender group, predominately female. This gender-based killing takes several forms, including selective abortion, infanticide, severe malnutrition, medical neglect and abandonment. [11]

  • Lack of Access to Education - Worldwide, 140 million children are not in school and more than half are girls. For those girls who do go to school, they have more reasons to drop out than boys do. These reasons include marrying young, menstruation shaming, and the route to school being too dangerous for a girl to walk. [12, 13]

  • Lack of Access to Medication - In poor families, boys will generally receive food or medication over their sisters.

  • Malnutrition - Around 60% of the world’s undernourished people are girls or women. In many societies, women and girls eat the food remaining after the male family members have eaten. [14]

  • Maternal Mortality - Globally, around 1,000 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications every day. That’s one every 90 seconds. 99% of maternal deaths happen in the developing world. [4, 15]

  • Natural Disasters - Disasters such as droughts, floods and storms kill more women than men due to structural gender inequalities. [5]

Like I said, being born a girl can be fatal and, my gosh, we can do better than this. I want to echo the words of Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (a Nigerian author and self-proclaimed feminist) to say, “Yes, there's a problem with gender today and we must fix it. We must do better.” I invite you to join me in engaging with gender based justice and, if this conversation is new for you, proactively learning more as a worthy place to start.

If you’d like to learn more about gender based injustice, I recommend reading Half the Sky, How to Change the World by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl Wudunn. You’re also welcome to get in touch with me if you’d like to continue this discussion further - it’d be my privilege.

Bethan Uitterdijk