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Blind spot in Australian aid leaves millions of girls vulnerable

A Plan International report has found a flaw in Australia’s aid program that has left millions of adolescent girls out of the education system

A new report has found a blind spot in Australia’s foreign aid program that leaves out millions of young girls from getting a secondary education.

Plan International analysed Australia’s aid program and policies to determine if it was on track to achieve its commitment to gender equality, but found that adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 are denied opportunities due to worldwide gender discrimination.

Plan International CEO, Susanne Legana, said: “Adolescent girls all over the world tell us of their passion to go to school, their desire to stay safe and to give back to their communities and families. Yet all over the world, girls are denied these opportunities every day of their lives.

“Our analysis has found adolescent girls are being overlooked, with serious consequences, particularly, missing out on finishing secondary education.”

Secondary education is vital for girls to gain work and become economically empowered, with school proven to be critical for girls to minimise the risk of teenage pregnancy, early marriage and financial dependence. But 76 per cent of girls around the world are not in school, in any sort of training or employed.

Countries where Australia contributes aid have low rates of secondary enrolment, such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Only two per cent of Australia’s overall education aid spending is currently focused on secondary education.

“More than half the government population of adolescent girls are on Australia’s doorstep, growing up in countries we provide aid to – there is enormous potential for us to help achieve gender equality globally by developing an action plan for adolescent girls,” Legana said. “We know the Australian public supports aid spending on education.”

Plan International has called on the government to address this blind spot and commit to supporting disadvantaged young girls. It suggests increasing funding to address barriers and developing an action plan to provide a roadmap for educating and empowering adolescent girls through Australia’s aid and development programs.

“If we don’t fix the blind spot for adolescent girls in our aid, they will keep missing out on the opportunity to reach their potential to work, and contribute to their communities and economies,” Legana said.

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