Seeking to help stem sexual violence against girls world-wide, the U.S. Department of State has become an official partner of Together for Girls, a public-private partnership launched last year by former President Bill Clinton. Together for Girls partners include private sector organizations Becton, Dickinson, and Company, and the Nduna Foundation, Grupo ABC, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and four United Nations agencies.
Working through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and the State Department's Office of Global Women's Issues, the U.S. will work with the Together For Girls partners to find, test and implement the best prevention and protection strategies that address violence against girls. They will do this by exploring the magnitude and impact of sexual violence, supporting a plan of action at the country level, and launching communications and public awareness campaigns.
Sexual violence against girls affects over a 150 million girls worldwide each year. Half of sexual assaults are against girls younger than 15. It is a global human rights violation of vast proportions, with severe health and social consequences. Girls who are victims of sexual violence may suffer severe physical harm, and are frequently stigmatized by their communities and even their families. They are also at risk for becoming infected with HIV, which causes AIDS. Young girls in particular are at increased risk of contracting HIV.
Protecting girls is not just the right thing to do from a moral perspective; it is an economic necessity, especially for countries working toward strengthening their economies. Protecting girls and investing in their health and education contribute to overall economic growth in developing countries.
When girls are accorded equal opportunities in education and healthcare as boys, they grow up to be women who invest in their families and contribute to their communities.
Ending sexual violence will allow girls worldwide to live safer, healthier lives and fulfill their rights to freedom from violence, exploitation and abuse. It will allow them to acquire an education, raise healthy families, and contribute to the prosperity of their communities and their countries.