Middlesbrough, Blackpool and Manchester named worst places to be a girl in England and Wales

Plan International UK report finds girls experience varying quality of life depending on where they grow up 

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Monday 12 September 2016 12:45 BST
Waverley in Surrey has been named the best place for girls to grow up
Waverley in Surrey has been named the best place for girls to grow up (Getty)

Middlesbrough, Blackpool and Manchester have been named the worst places in England and Wales to be a girl, while Waverley in Surrey has been named the best.

According to a new report by Plan International UK and the University of Hull, the quality of life for girls varies hugely depending on the area they live in.

The report ranked the 346 local authorities in England and Wales in terms of where girls are able to “fully enjoy their rights” based on five factors in the areas; the levels of child poverty, life expectancy, rates of teenage conception, rates of GCSE passes and the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

Inner-city urban areas performed the most poorly, while the 10 worst places to be a girl were found to be Middlesbrough, Blackpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Knowsley, Hastings, Kingston Upon Hull, Salford and Sandwell.

The majority of the highest ranking areas were found in South-east England, with the top 10 places to be a girl listed as Waverley, Rushcliffe, Chiltern, Mole Valley, Epsom and Ewell, Rutland, Elmbridge, Wokingham, St Albans, and East Hertfordshire.

Kerry Smith, the head of girls’ rights at the charity, said the research shows a girl’s life chances are “tied to where she lives”. She added: “The UK is failing to meet its obligations to girls as set out in international human rights protocols and as things currently stand will fail to meet its obligations under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The report also highlighted that data on violence, which is collected at police force level, is not comparable to the other indicators in its report as they have been based on local authority areas, though violence against girls remains a critical issue.

A statement in the report on the issue claimed: “Girls have told us for years that violence and harassment in schools pose a significant barrier in their lives. Our research shows that reports of sexual offences on school premises have doubled in recent years, to an average of 10 each school day,” while claiming its findings showed nearly two-thirds of the alleged victims are girls and 94 per cent of the alleged perpetrators are men or boys.

The charity interviewed 103 girls and young women across the UK as part of the report across a range of issues. In terms of violence and safety, schools and the streets were found to be key locations for violence and harassment for girls.

Megan, 14, is quoted as saying: “In my school, there’s loads of boys who sexually harass girls. Teachers are completely oblivious, and we don’t say anything because, honestly, we’re scared…”

Ms Smith said: “Girls are facing harassment in schools, they don’t feel safe online and they’re scared everyday on the street,” and added that despite being one of the most developed countries globally, “too many girls in the UK don’t enjoy their rights.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to building a country that works for everyone – no girl should be held back in life just because of her gender or where she lives. We have given schools clear guidance on ‎sex and relationship education and products to help them discuss body image with their pupils, so they can learn to respect themselves and others.

“Teenage pregnancy rates are at the lowest level for 40 years and we are driving down child poverty, with the number of children living in workless households at a record low. But we want to do more which is why we are encouraging more young people, particularly girls, to study Stem subjects and working to eliminate the gender pay gap.”

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