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International Day of the Girl Child: Why Politicians Need To Sit Up And Listen To Girls

13/10/2014 15:22 BST | Updated 10/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Girlguiding is calling on MPs to listen to girls' voices ahead of the 2015 general election, with eight specific calls for change on issues girls say are important to them. One of the asks of the Girls Matter campaign is that girls' rights are made a priority in the UK's international development policy - here's why I think this matters so much.

It's the year 2014, and girls the world over face the disadvantages that come with being both young and female. They are kept from attending school, spend their time looking after home and family and live with the persistent threat of violence. We are denying girls their rights.

Since The Millennium

Back in 2000, world leaders signed up to eight targets called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which set out how they wanted the world to look by the year 2015.

From ending hunger, to combatting HIV/AIDS, to ensuring environmental sustainability, governments and other organisations (including Guides and Scouts) have been taking action - and in 14 years we have achieved a lot. Seventeen thousand fewer children die each day. Ninety per cent of children are now enrolled in primary school. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty was halved by 2010. But the picture isn't the same in all continents, all countries or all regions.

A lot of the so-called 'developed' countries saw the Millennium Development Goals as something to fund, not to achieve themselves. The UK government continues to ignore one of the targets for gender equality, namely equal representation in Parliament - we are a long way from this, with less that one out of every four MPs being a woman. We need to embed gender equality in our political system to truly prioritise girls' rights everywhere.

A World Free From Violence

Many of the issues are interconnected, and the current situation for many girls today is shaped by things that weren't priorities back in 2000. Violence is a crucial factor - both the hostile conditions in warzones, and the multitude of other forms of violence that infiltrate the lives of girls. From early marriage to domestic violence, from female genital mutilation to sexual assault. One in three women worldwide will be subject to violence during their lifetime.

I am calling on those involved in setting the next international goals to really consider the rights of girls. Our right to an education, our right to health, our right to live free from violence and our right to live long and fulfilling lives.

Stand Up For Girls Rights

Help us to ensure that the issues that matter most to girls are reflected in the next set of international goals by taking the MyWorld Survey and consider the issues facing girls all over the world as you vote. Then share the survey with the girls and young women that you know so that they can cast a vote for their own future.

To find out more about Girls Matter - Girlguiding members' eight policy asks ahead of next year's general election - visit www.girlsmatter.org.uk.