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Gender disparities in various stages of childhood

Sep 19, 2011

The latest UNICEF report, Boys and Girls in the Life Cycle suggests growing gender disparities with age among children worldwide. In secondary school education, girls are most disadvantaged in South Asia while boys are most disadvantaged in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Boys and Girls in the Life Cycle

Published by: UNICEF, 2011

The data indicate that important gender imbalances exist in the population structure in some countries, particularly in parts of Asia, resulting in a higher deficit of girls than normal.

Among the surviving children, available data suggest, perhaps surprisingly, that in early childhood, gender disparities are relatively small among the indicators examined such as  education, health, nutrition and protection. However, gender disparities become more evident as children approach adolescence.

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In most populations, female infants (under 1 year old) have lower mortality than male infants, because of certain biological and genetic advantages.  This advantage may also exist beyond infancy, although at some point during early childhood, environmental and behavioural factors begin to exert a greater influence.

Measles immunization coverage is similar among boys and girls across all regions, except in South Asia. The likelihood of being stunted is similar for boys and girls in India across wealth quintiles, even as total levels vary. Most countries have reached gender parity in primary education; girls remain disadvantaged in some countries in Africa and Asia.

A comparison of nine Asian countries shows that gender parity has been achieved in the richest wealth quintile for most countries. However, the gap in attendance between boys and girls varies greatly across countries for the poorest children. Among the poorest 20% of households, Pakistani girls are significantly disadvantaged (GPI = 0.67) while Bangladeshi boys are significantly disadvantaged (GPI = 1.12).

Generally, the poor are less likely to attend school than the rich. However, gender disparities are more pronounced among populations with lower overall attendance, such as the poorer quintiles in Nigeria. With higher levels of attendance, gender parity becomes more likely even among children from the poorest households.

The report shows that girls are significantly more likely to be married as children (under 18 years of age) and to begin having sex at a young age. In Sub-Saharan Africa, girls are also more likely to report that a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances.

Among the surviving children, available data suggest, perhaps surprisingly, that in early childhood, gender disparities are relatively small among the indicators examined such as  education, health, nutrition and protection

As far as secondary school education is concerned, girls are most disadvantaged in South Asia and boys are most disadvantaged in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Young women are less likely to be literate than young men and are less likely to watch television, listen to the radio and read a newspaper or magazine. Young men are better informed about HIV/AIDS and are also more likely to protect themselves with condoms during sex. Ultimately, young women in sub-Saharan Africa are two to four times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS than young men.

Accurate knowledge of HIV and AIDS is lowest among the poorest households and in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In Bangladesh, young women in every household wealth quintile are less likely than young men to have a comprehensive knowledge of HIV.

About 5 million young people were living with HIV in developing countries in 2009: 3.2 million young women and 1.7 million young men.

This report is the most comprehensive compilation to date of sex-disaggregated statistics on children and young people in the developing world.

Source : UNICEF
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