07/24/2013 12:20 EDT | Updated 09/23/2013 05:12 EDT

The War on Girls Starts in the Womb

By Marcia Banasko, World YWCA Communications Officer

Girls face multiple and complex barriers to education, gender equality and economic stability including the burden of domestic work from an early age, security issues, child marriage and poor sanitation. Globally, despite recent attention to their role in development, girls continue to experience human rights violations, gender inequality, and exclusion from many gains made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Girls are too often subject to harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, which increases their risk of maternal mortality or childbirth injury, HIV infection and domestic violence. Young women from marginalized social groups, girls living without their parents, and displaced girls are particularly vulnerable to violence.

Not only do young women and girls face all this discrimination and high levels of vulnerabilities, but across the world, social attitudes, economic and cultural factors determine for many that it is more preferable having a boy child, a boy being viewed as the golden ticket.

In this regard, the war against girls begins in the womb before she has even breathed her first pocket of air. The three words: "It's a Girl", are often met with great sadness and disappointment, the term gendercide is a relatively new concern facing the world today.

Being a girl in this world can be dangerous business, however the World YWCA has a strategic vision of creating a safe world for women, young women and girls. There are 3.5 Billion girls and women in the world. That's 3.5 Billion ways to change the world. Harnessing the power of these girls and women is essentially for economic growth in companies, communities & countries.

The World YWCA is committed to advancing the social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights of women, young women and girls around the world. As noted in the World YWCA Strategic Framework 2012-2015 , the YWCA movement works to ensure these rights are promoted and protected through advocacy, programmes and services; encompasses the action of influencing institutions and policies at global, regional and national level on priority issues such as young women's empowerment, violence against women and sexual and reproductive health and rights, including HIV and AIDS. Furthermore, as a partner of the Girls 20 Summit, the World YWCA continues support the work of the summit and the opportunity for girls to meet and discuss ideas on how to lead innovative change in their communities and countries.

Each year, the G(irls)20 Summit brings together one girl, aged 18-20 from each G20 country to look at the G20 Leaders agenda thru the lens of girls and women globally and make recommendations to the G20 leaders for economically empower girls and women.

Marcia Banasko is from the United Kingdom, holds a Degree in International Development and Latin American Studies from the University of Liverpool and a National Diploma in Youth Work and Development from John Moores University. She is a Communications Officer at the World YWCA and has been involved with the YWCA for the past 5 years, working as a Project Worker for the YWCA of England and Wales. Marcia advocates and blogs about social issues affecting young women around the world. She has extensive grassroots experience and has worked in Ireland, UK, Turkey and India. Marcia continues to engage in global advocacy platforms such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women, UN Human Rights Council, Bali Global Youth Forum and Women Deliver.