Friday, October 30, 2009

West African Girls Worst Victims of Economic Crisis

West African girls worst victims of economic crisis: NGO

DAKAR (AFP) – Young girls in west Africa will be disproportionately affected by the global economic downturn, children's charity Plan International warned on Friday.

"The global economic crisis does threaten many of the recent advances we have seen in west Africa especially for girls," Plan chief executive officer Niger Chapman told a press conference in Dakar.

Young women are often the first victims of any economic downturn because they are already in a marginalised position and seen as being worth less to their families, according to Plan's 2009 report titled "Because I'm a girl".

"They are the most vulnerable, the least likely to survive, be fed, go to school and stay healthy," Plan said.

In west Africa the position of girls in society is even more fragile than in other developing regions because they suffer from more gender discrimination, Plan spokeswoman Stefanie Conrad said.

"We know from our day-to-day work that once household resources get scarce girls quit school because a girl's education is less valued," she said.

West Africa already has far lower rates of enrolment and success for girls in school than other developing regions, she said.

The effects of the crisis could be long term in the region, where many girls are pulled of school to save money or forced to stay home and look after their siblings while their mothers find jobs to supplement the family income.

"Every year is precious in a child's life. You only get the chance once and if you miss school (as a child) it is difficult to catch up later," Chapman said.

Although Plan is not launching a particular campaign linked to its report, the organisation said it was looking at how it can continue to contribute to improving the situation of girls in the region through programs such as sponsoring of children and supporting mircofinance schemes, Chapman said.

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