Poor performance

U.S. falls short on ranking of best countries for young girls

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The United States has been ranked 32nd out of 144 in a Save the Children report on the best and worst countries in which to be a girl. Sweden was named the best place for girls to live. Niger was labeled as the worst. The U.S., which was singled out by the report, ranks below countries with histories of authoritarianism and violent conflict — like Algeria and Kazakhstan, for instance.

When compiling its rankings, the report measured five factors that predict girls’ ability to thrive: rates of early marriage; adolescent fertility; maternal mortality; women’s representation in government; and completion of secondary school.

Although the United States is currently the world’s biggest economy, its relatively high rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality are on par with countries like Uruguay and Lebanon. Women are also poorly represented in U.S. politics, holding only 19.4 percent of seats in Congress and 20 percent of seats in the U.S. Senate. Forty-four percent of Sweden’s parliament, by contrast, is made up of women lawmakers.

The U.S. was not the only wealthy country to score a ranking that does not correspond to its economic standing. Australia, for example, ranks second in the UNDP’s Human Development Index, but scored 21st in the Save the Children report. Like the United States, Australia suffers from high adolescent fertility rates and low proportions of women MPs.

With its report, Save the Children hopes to identify barriers that need to be tackled by world leaders. “[W]hen a girl is empowered and has agency to transform her life, whole societies are transformed in the process,” the report states. “Girls need to be empowered and supported to fulfil their equal rights.”

The bottom 20 countries on Save the Children’s list are all in the same region, suggesting that “the worst places to be a girl are the poorest countries in the world.”

Read the full story at NBC News.

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