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A new report ranked girls’ welfare worldwide — the U.S. did not do well

Claire Zulkey wonders when she'll ever get used to the idea that she has two boys. She is the author of two books for young people, An Off Year and Best Frenemies. She and her filmmaker husband live in Evanston, IL. You can find out more...

Bad news on Day of the Girl: There are 31 other countries where it’s better to be a girl than in the U.S.

Girls around the world are subjected to grim realities that we can only imagine in the U.S. For instance, according to a new report from Save the Children, one girl under 15 is married every seven seconds.

The report, especially relevant today, International Day of the Girl, says child marriage most frequently occurs in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia — places that might seem far away to those of us in the U.S., where despite the powder keg of political turmoil dominating the news cycle, it can still be a pretty cushy place to live.

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That said, the United States is faring more miserably than it ought to be. Save the Children listed the U.S. 32nd — 32nd! — on its Girls’ Opportunity Index. Countries like Slovenia, Israel, Algeria and Kazakhstan do better than the States on a combined score measuring child marriage, adolescent fertility, maternal mortality (which indicates girls’ access to good-quality health care), lower-secondary school completion and women and the number of female representatives in government. Sweden, by comparison, is the best place to be a girl, due in part to its low rate of teen mothers and the high number of women serving in government.

Consider this report come Election Day if the current political climate is making you too angry or apathetic to want to vote. In the U.S., there are 535 seats in Congress and less than 20 percent of those seats are occupied by women (compared to the country at large, which is 50 percent women.) Eighty percent of government, the government that makes decisions about women’s health care or rights during divorce proceedings or laws affecting victims of abuse, is made up of men. And American women can fix this.

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This is not a call for women to necessarily vote for the female candidate (although, I will personally be voting for the female candidate.) This disappointing news about the overall welfare of girls in America, however, is a call to become involved in the political process and to let our children see us doing it. If we truly want to do well by women, we need to raise future generations of daughters who believe that if we make up 50 percent of the population in this country, then 50 percent of our government should be women too.

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