Press centre

Fact sheet

International Women’s Day: 10 quick facts on girls

NEW YORK, 7 March 2015 – To mark International Women’s Day and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on women’s empowerment, UNICEF presents a statistical snapshot of progress and trends for girls and women.

Water and sanitation

  • At least 500 million women and girls lack a private place to change their sanitary protection during menstruation. This is equivalent to every female living in developed countries.

Child protection

  • Close to half of all girls aged 15-19 worldwide, around 126 million, think a husband is sometimes justified in hitting or beating his wife.
  • Globally, 1 in 4 young women alive today were married in childhood versus 1 in 3 in the early 1980s. In the Middle East and North Africa, the percentage of women married before age 18 has dropped by about half during the last three decades.
  • The overall chance that a girl will undergo Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting today is about one third lower than it was three decades ago.


  • Globally, gender parity in tertiary education – including university and technical and vocational college – was achieved in 1999. In 2012, more young women than young men went to university globally and the difference was greatest in Latin America and the Caribbean. 
  • South Asia shows the greatest improvements in gender parity at all level – primary, secondary and tertiary – but in sub-Saharan Africa enrolment is lower for girls than for boys.
  • Girls are outperforming boys at school – in the majority of countries with data, girls perform better than boys in reading. 


  • In 2013, an estimated 250,000 adolescents (aged 15-19) were newly infected with HIV, nearly two thirds (64%) of whom were adolescent girls.
  • In all low- and middle-income countries, adolescent girls (aged 15-19) had a lower rate of comprehensive knowledge of HIV than adolescent boys but were more likely to become sexually active before age 15 than their male counterparts.


  • Despite growing evidence of the protective effects breastfeeding can have for women and their children, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding has remained almost unchanged since the year 2000. 
  • Stunting rates are typically higher among boys than girls – while the difference is generally small, it is greatest in Africa.


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

For further information, please contact: 
Elissa Jobson, UNICEF Media Section, Tel: +1 917 930 4521,





New enhanced search