Assistant Under-Secretary-General Kyung-wha Kang - Remarks to the High-Level Preview Dinner Hosted by Plan International and UN OCHA for the State of the World’s Girls Report 2013

On behalf of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), I am very honored and pleased to join you this evening. OCHA is delighted to partner with Plan International in hosting this preview dinner for the launch of the State of the World’s Girls Report, which this year focuses on adolescent girls in emergencies. Last year, in my previous job with the UN human rights office in Geneva, I participated in an event on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council, to discuss Plan’s report last year focusing on education for girls. So I am very happy to continue this engagement with Plan in my new position, with a report that should raise alarm among humanitarian actors all around.

The reports shows us, through empirical data and through the voices of girls themselves, that we still have a long way to go in meeting the needs of girls in crisis and disasters. And it provides valuable recommendations for all of us gathered here on how we should move forward.

Disasters strike indiscriminately, but people experience disasters in very different ways. Disasters don’t discriminate, but the humanitarian response to them has. Whether it’s a tendency to put boys before girls during immediate rescue efforts, or the fact that girls often forego a meal before boys, disaster response can mirror or amplify the double discrimination girls face in society, because of both their gender and age.

In addition, girls face particular vulnerabilities and threats in crisis, such as sexual exploitation and abuse, early or forced marriage, unplanned pregnancies and early childbirth. Disasters are highly disruptive to family and social structures and create new financial demands. Teenage girls often bear the brunt of these burdens: forced into marriage or transactional sex; abused or exploited; becoming pregnant too early for their own development; their health compromised and their education over. This is happening even in refugee camps and other places where humanitarians are at work.

We need to work harder, much harder to ensure that humanitarian assistance in disasters does not exacerbate existing discrimination, and address the special needs of girls.

In fact, humanitarian agencies have already developed tools and approaches to achieve this, through particular methods of data collection, assessment, communication and monitoring. But our performance in using and applying these is not where it needs to be.

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