A landmark new report has ranked the best and worst places to be a girl in England and Wales – and shows a major regional disparity with seven of the top 10 in the South of England and eight of the worst places in the North.
The study, which was conducted by Plan UK and looked at factors including child poverty, educational attainment and teenage pregnancy rates, is the first of its kind to assess the experiences of girls across every local authority in the two countries.
Waverley in Surrey made the top of the list, followed by Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, Chiltern in Buckinghamshire, and Mole Valley and Epsom and Ewell, both in Surrey.
In the bottom five just above Middlesbrough are Blackpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Liverpool.
It wasn’t just a North/South divide revealed. Inner city areas performed worst and the rural South-East performed the best.
Authors behind the report stressed that girls across the UK are being “failed” and urged the Government to take “urgent action”.
Lucy Russell, UK girls’ rights campaigner for Plan and co-author of the report, told the Press Association: “Our overall conclusion is the UK is failing girls and what needs to happen is urgent action to address this.
“We heard very strongly from girls that they were facing harassment every day, that meant they were facing harassment in schools, they were getting name-calling, unwanted sexual touching, groping.
“Our conclusion is that despite being one of the most developed countries on Earth, there are too many girls in the UK who aren’t enjoying their rights.”
She warned the UK is failing to meet its obligations to girls as set out in the UN’s sustainable development goals.
The report, The State of Girls’ Rights in the UK, ranks areas according to child poverty, life expectancy, teenage pregnancy, GCSE results and numbers not in education, employment or training (Neets).
Authors also carried out interviews with 103 girls and young women across the UK.
The charity is calling for girls committees to be set up, mandatory sex and relationship education, and greater cross-departmental government working to address the problems.
A Government spokesman 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.”