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Stand with women and girls

The five most dangerous places to be a girl

Violence is a daily reality for girls in Afghanistan. Rape is rampant in the Central African Republic. Many Syrian girls in Lebanon are forced to marry early.

Millions around the world face discrimination and lack of opportunity. Their voices aren’t always heard or needs considered. According to International Rescue Committee violence-prevention experts, here are some of the most dangerous places to be a girl:

1. Niger

Niger has the highest percentage of girls married before 18; on average, 1 in 5 adolescent girls give birth before age 18.

Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

Niger suffers from instability, frequent droughts, insurgency and widespread poverty. The country also hosts more than 118,000 Nigerian refugees—many driven from their homes by the militant group Boko Haram. In addition, thousands have fled fighting along the Mali border and live in makeshift camps.

Niger has the highest percentage of girls married before 18; on average, 1 in 5 adolescent girls give birth before age 18.

2. Yemen

Violence against women and girls in Yemen, including rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse, has increased by over 63 percent.

Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

Girls are paying the price for the civil war in Yemen, where 75 percent of those displaced by fighting are women and girls.

Violence against women and girls, including rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse, has increased by over 63 percent, according to the United Nations. Rates of child, early and forced marriage have tripled to 65 percent.

Many girls are unable to attend school because of the conflict, reversing two decades of progress on education.

3. South Sudan

A peace agreement between warring parties signed late last year has the potential to drastically improve the situation for women and girls living in South Sudan.

Photo: Charles Lomodong/IRC

Since 2013, South Sudan has been racked by conflict. Up to 65 percent of women and girls have experienced physical or sexual violence, according to IRC experts—among the highest levels of violence against women and girls in the world. 

Poverty and armed conflict drive many families to marry off their daughters early: 52 percent of girls in South Sudan are married before age 18; 9 percent are married before age 15. 

"A peace agreement between warring parties signed late last year has the potential to drastically improve the situation for women and girls living in South Sudan,” says IRC country director Martin Omukuba. “The new transitional government administration, which is scheduled to take over in May of this year, must make protecting women and girls a priority."

4. Bangladesh

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Cox’s Bazar, a district in Bangladesh. Among these refugees, 52 percent are women and children.

Photo: Jess Wanless/IRC

Since late August 2017, nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Cox’s Bazar, a district in Bangladesh. The displacement has created overcrowded camps where basic services are stretched beyond limits.

Among these refugees, 52 percent are women and children; 77 percent of women and girls report feeling unsafe in Cox’s Bazar and do not leave their shelters. 

Humanitarian organisation, Plan International, conducted a survey that found 21 percent of girls age 15-19 were married, and 16 percent were pregnant. More than three-quarters of the 300 girls questioned said they never made decisions affecting their lives. 

5. Central African Republic

Central African Republic has the second highest rate of child marriage in the world: 68 percent of Central African girls are married before age 18.

Photo: David Belluz/IRC

Recurring conflict and sectarian clashes have left 2.7 million Central Africans—over half the population—in need of humanitarian assistance. For women and girls, the violence they experience is shocking.

Last year, militia fighters attacked, kidnapped and raped a large group of women in an isolated area of the country. Many were fetching water or tending fields, common and necessary tasks that can be life threatening for women and girls worldwide. According to IRC experts, there were more than 10,000 cases of violence against women and girls reported in 2018, including 1,621 rapes.

Central African Republic also has the second highest rate of child marriage in the world (after Niger): 68 percent of Central African girls are married before age 18; 29 percent before age 15. Their rights are neglected, and many are forced to drop out of school.

How the IRC helps adolescent girls

The IRC is a global leader in providing services and resources to adolescent girls in crisis. We help them recover from violence and regain control over their lives and futures. Through psychosocial support, educational activities, mentorships and other programs, the IRC engages girls, their parents, caregivers and community leaders to support, protect and empower girls. Learn more about our work here.