Invisible girls: can data help fight gender inequality?

Updated 7:19 PM ET, Tue October 11, 2016

Story highlights

  • A data revolution could bring girls out of the shadows and into schools, a new report says
  • 40 million boys and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa will leave school in the next 10 years
  • Child marriage, periods and money are among reasons girls drop out

(CNN)When does a child stop being a child and become a girl or a boy? A difficult question which can have serious consequences for children, according to a new report by Plan International, which has been gathering data and analyzing statistics on young adults.

Over the next decade, an estimated 40 million youngsters in Sub-Saharan Africa will drop out of school, according to the World Bank.
Girls drop out of school more than boys, according to Plan, and researchers want governments to change the way they gather data and pay more attention to the reasons why this happens in order to fight gender inequality.
Statistics on the under-15s tend not to differentiate between boys and girls, and this keeps the specific needs of young girls in the shadows, according to Plan International's CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen.
"You simply cannot target the program to the girl child, because you can't analyze the data in a way that will allow you to tailor your programs in an appropriate way," Albrectsen says.
"We have fairly good statistics that show us that there are more girls that drop out of secondary (high) school than boys, but what we don't know is why they do it."
Although this is a blind spot in the official data, organizations like Plan have begun to investigate the causes and have found three key reasons: child marriage, menstruation and poverty.