Facts and figures

Young women’s leadership

  • Only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995 [1]. At the current pace, it will take another 40 years to reach equal representation.
  • In the least developed countries, barely 60 per cent of girls complete primary school and just 30 per cent enroll in secondary school [2].
  • An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2012 [3]. Girls are almost 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in conflict-affected countries than their counterparts in conflict-free countries [4].
  • The likelihood of exclusion from education is most problematic among young women in sub-Saharan Africa, where 49.8 per cent of the female youth population had either no or limited education [5].

Economic empowerment and skills development

  • Young men are more likely than young women to obtain stable employment and find formal work, in all 10 countries studied in an ILO report [6].
  • A university educated young woman is almost two times more likely to complete the labour market transition than a less-educated young woman. It takes an average of 7.8 months for a young woman to attain her first job after completing education, whereas young men transition at an average of 6.9 months [7].
  • Globally, youth entrepreneurship is still most common among older male youth, with self-employment being least likely among younger women [8].
  • An extra year of primary school for girls can increase their eventual adult wages by 10 to 20 per cent, and an extra year of secondary school increases wages by 15 to 25 per cent [9]. If all girls completed secondary education in low- and lower-middle income countries, under-five child mortality could be cut in half [10].

Ending violence against young women and girls

  • 1 in 5 women and girls aged 15-49, reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period [11].
  • Globally, over 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday [12].
  • An estimated 246 million girls and boys experience school-related violence every year and one in four girls say that they never feel comfortable using school latrines, according to a survey on youth conducted across four regions. The extent and forms of school-related violence that girls and boys experience differ, but evidence suggests that girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation [13].
  • At least 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation. Data from 30 countries in 2015 indicate that more than 1 in 3 girls between 15 and 19 years of age have undergone the procedure [14].
  • Globally, young women aged 15–24 are most vulnerable to HIV, with infection rates twice as high as in young men, at 0.6 per cent [15]. Every minute, one young woman acquires HIV, accounting for 22 per cent of all new HIV infections, with sexual transmission being the dominant mode of infection.


[1] Single House or Lower House. Inter-Parliamentary Union. “Women in national parliaments, as of 1 June 2017”.

[2] UNFPA. Youth participation and leadership.

[3] UNICEF (2015) Girls' education and gender equality.

[4] UNESCO (2015) Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Policy Paper, p.3

[5] International Labour Organization (2016) Young and Female – a double strike?

[6] International Labour Organization (2013) Global Employment Trends 2013

[7] International Labour Organization (2016) Young and Female – a double strike?

[8] UN DESA (2016) World Youth Report

[9] UNICEF (2011) UNICEF says education for women and girls a lifeline to development

[10] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14: Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all – Gender Summary, UNESCO, Paris, 2014, p. 20.

[11] UN Economic and Social Council (2017). Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General (E/2017/66).

[12] Ibid

[13] Data taken from (i) Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR), UNESCO, United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) (2015). School-related gender-based violence is preventing the achievement of quality education for all, Policy Paper 17, and (ii) UNGEI (2014). End School-related gender-based violence (SRGBVB) infographic.

[14] UN Economic and Social Council (2017). Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General (E/2017/66).

[15] UNDESA, UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women (2013) Girls and Young Women Fact Sheet