Kenya is ranked the best girl-friendly country in the region, according to a new report.
And it’s ranked the 17th most girl-friendly country in Africa, but much ahead of Burundi (31), Tanzania (32), Uganda (34) and Sudan (42).
The ranking was done by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), a Pan-African institute of policy research and dialogue on the African child.
Mauritius tops the list, followed by Tunisia and South Africa, ACPF says in its 2020 African report on child well-being.
South Sudan, Chad and Eritrea are the harshest nations for girls in the ranking of 52 countries by the organisation, whose work is guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Girl-friendly countries are those that embrace the girl-child and prioritise her needs.
Top performing girl-friendly countries, according to ACPF, have comprehensive, girl-sensitive laws and policies, which guarantee adequate protection.
They also strive to enforce those laws and policies as well as follow international standards on universal birth registration, vaccinations, nutrition, healthcare and education.
In addition, they reduce preventable deaths and tackle harmful practices and violence.
The governments of those countries allocate a relatively high proportion of their gross domestic product (GDP) to social protection, health, education and also set budgets specifically for girl-friendly policies and programmes.
On the other hand, poor performing countries have relatively high malnutrition among girls, higher rates of early marriage and a small proportion of girls in education from pre-primary to secondary school.
Additionally, they have high school drop-out rates, poor access to adequate healthcare and nutrition, low birth registration and high child mortality as well as inadequate funding for girls’ education and healthcare, including immunisation programmes.
ACPF calls on African governments to ensure girls are well-taken care of.
“African governments must do better, and aspire to a continent where every girl develops to her full potential in an atmosphere of dignity and equality,” said the forum in a statement.
ACPF also reminds leaders to accommodate girls to achieve a more productive and functioning society.
“A society that ignores its girls has abandoned its future and is bound to fail.”
The report highlights the slow progress being made in some areas around the globe as girls continue to suffer injustice.
“By 2050, Africa will be home to around half a billion girls and young women under the age of 18, representing a huge potential untapped resource which could transform the future of the continent.”
It also points out that African girls endure harmful cultural beliefs and traditions, patriarchal gender attitudes and discriminatory laws, policies and practices.
Their plight has been worsened by Covid-19 pandemic.
“Every dollar invested in a girl’s education or healthcare benefits society many times over, and is essential to achieve Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Girl-Friendliness Index (GFI) developed by ACPF employs a rights-based statistical methodology and a wide range of data to measure the progress of 52 African governments towards realising the rights and wellbeing of girls.
GFI is a unique tool, which ranks how well or poorly a government performs when it comes to the rights and wellbeing of girls.
“It scores governments against 23 indicators to maximise efforts to respect, protect and fulfil girl’ rights and ensure gender equality among children,” the forum explains.
Low income countries that scored relatively highly in the GFI show that countries need not necessarily be wealthy in order to be girl-friendly.
It was observed that countries with higher GDP per capita, which scored poorly, show the opposite is also true.
This shows that economic wealth is not necessarily related to girl-friendliness.
Some poorer African countries -- including Lesotho and Gabon -- performed reasonably well, while others with a relatively high GDP -- such as Equatorial Guinea and Botswana -- were ranked lower.
According to ACPF, government girl-friendliness is a function of good governance.
The strong positive correlation between governance and girl-friendliness shows the need for African governments to strive for enhanced transparency, accountability and overall social, economic and political effectiveness.
“The three main characteristics that define governments’ friendliness towards girls are girl-sensitive laws and policies, sufficient and gender-sensitive budgets, and strong enforcement and accountability mechanisms.”
The report further established that girls living in Africa today are more likely to be victims of trafficking, sexual abuse and labour exploitation.
They are also more likely to get married much younger and/or experience female genital mutilation than girls anywhere else.
This is because they are discriminated against by laws relating to marriage and inheritance, hence likely to be poorer than boys.
There is also a higher risk of mental health problems because they are likely to be excluded from healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare.
They also do not get a decent education and are more likely to drop out of school.
The girls are excluded from hygiene and sanitation in schools.
The forum also says that they are denied their voices, including in the most intimate of decisions subject to stark differences in respect, treatment and life chances depending on where they are born.
The launch of the report by ACPF will be streamed live from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Friday 20 November at 1400 EAT for 90 minutes.
The full document will then be made available for download on the same day as well as the publishing of the ACPF Girl-Friendliness Index (GFI).
The key speakers during the event include Mrs Graça Machel, Chair of the ACPF International Board of Trustees.