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Do girls have fewer prospects than boys?

Save The Children report says they do

Do girls have fewer prospects than boys?  Save The Children report says they do

We've long understood that Italy - with those who impose choices over our bodies and those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of the patriarchy even as the numbers of gender violence skyrocket (and shamefully so) - is not a country for women. Perhaps, however, we should realize that it is not a country for the young or for those who earn so little they don’t know how to pay the bills or put food on the table. Instead, it is a place where for a large portion of the population, even dreaming becomes prohibitive, hoping for a better tomorrow in which, if not a social redemption, at least the economic security needed to sleep without hunger pangs and without the nightmare of unpaid bills can be found. This is highlighted by the research Domani (Im)possibili by Save the Children, which examines the impact that material poverty can have on educational and life paths.

Youth and Poverty, the Data

The picture that emerges is bleak. In Italy, more than 1.3 million minors, one child out of seven, live in absolute poverty and among them, over 100,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 16 live in our country in conditions of severe material deprivation and do not expect to improve their situation. They live a reality where parents struggle to afford food, clothing, or bill payments (17.9%), homes lack heating (7.6%), fridges are empty (6.4%), and it is normal to give up going out (15.1%), playing sports due to economic reasons (16.2%), or going on vacation (30.8%) because there isn't even enough money to buy new shoes despite needing them (11.6%). It’s no wonder that 67.4% of respondents fear they will never escape this situation, more than one in four think they will not finish school, and when looking to their future, over 40% feel negative emotions such as anxiety (24.8%), distrust (5.8%), or fear (12.1%), fully aware of the weight of inequalities on their future.

Between Desires and Possibilities

Despite their young age, the respondents are well aware of the uphill path that those living in economic hardship must take compared to their peers. They denounce environmental degradation and the lack of educational, cultural, and sports opportunities that afflict many of them and call for free psychological support and economic assistance for families in poverty. They have simple and shared aspirations: a stable job (94.2%) that does not endanger their physical or mental health (84.1%); a loving family (almost 80%); having children and being a good parent (79.4%); while 59% would like to attend university and obtain a degree; and 36.7% dream of moving abroad. However, when examining the real possibilities of these things happening, 15- and 16-year-olds living in severe economic deprivation are already resigned to dropping out of school early to work, not attending university due to high costs, and believe that even when they enter the workforce, they will not earn enough.

Interrupted Girls (by the Gender Gap)

The most discouraged about their future are the girls, regardless of their background. They have great aspirations regarding their studies and believe they will definitely attend university (69.4% compared to 40.7% of boys), but they think they will not find the job they desire (29.4%), will never have adequate economic satisfaction (46.1%), and will struggle to balance private and working life. Most of all, they are convinced they will never be treated equally to men.

Reversing the Trend

This disparity in future expectations among adolescents in poverty and girls across all economic conditions is more than painful, it is unacceptable. Concrete intervention from political bodies is needed, based on a long-term strategy that involves education, health, work, and resources for children and adolescents. Raffaela Milano, Director of Research and Training at Save the Children, proposes the establishment of a National Fund to support the aspirations of children and adolescents in economically fragile conditions. The first step is to "define the essential performance levels for the rights of children and adolescents. Starting with access to school meals, full-time primary schools, free school books, and the right to university education". At the same time, it is imperative to eradicate patriarchy and gender stereotypes, beginning with encouraging girls to engage in STEM subjects and providing concrete support for the professional development of young women in the labor market.