Mental Health and Gender Inequality Impacting Girls and Women Worldwide

by Ella

Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General, drew attention to the silent pandemic of mental health affecting young women during the Generation Equality Midpoint Moment at the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly. She emphasized that without addressing this issue directly, achieving gender equality, along with all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, remains elusive.


Sia Nowrojee, Stephanie Oula, and Mary Jerome, members of the UN Foundation’s Girls and Women Strategy team, are examining the crisis through a gender equality lens. They observe that feminist organizations, movements, and private sector companies are increasingly focusing on mental health. Now, there is an urgent need to integrate healing justice and prioritize mental health to ensure that no girl or woman endures suffering in silence.


The Intersection of Mental Health and Gender Equality


Megan: How do girls’ and women’s experiences with mental health differ from those of boys and men? What is the link between mental health and gender equality?


Sia: Mental health is a global crisis affecting individuals of all genders, including boys and men. However, the experiences of girls and women are shaped by gender norms, the unique challenges of navigating the world as women, and the inherent stresses and inequalities associated with it.

Stephanie: Recent research by our partners at Kate Spade New York and Prospira Global reveals that 90% of respondents agree that women experience increasing stressors simply because of their gender.

Mary: Among the numerous mental health challenges specific to girls and women, one that stands out is gender-based violence.

Sia: Absolutely. When one in three women experiences gender-based violence, it is evident that being a woman comes with significant risks.

Stephanie: Unfortunately, the normalization of such experiences in our societies means that girls and women are constantly assessing their safety and the potential for danger. We are consistently calculating the safety of walking home from school, socializing, working, and even being at home. This constant vigilance takes a toll as we continually monitor the possibility of violence and how to survive it.

Sia: It is no coincidence that as girls and women worldwide lose control over their bodies and where they can be within their own bodies, this mental health crisis escalates.

For instance, mental health practitioners in Afghanistan report higher rates of suicide among girls and women compared to boys and men for the first time. Simultaneously, new laws are further restricting the freedom of Afghan girls and women, requiring them to have male escorts for travel and severely limiting access to educational and communal spaces. A recent UN survey confirms that nearly 70% of Afghan women are experiencing growing feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression. These trends are undeniably interconnected.


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