The Girl Child Policy and Research Project

——- The Girl Child Policy and Research Project ——  
The Girl Child Policy and Research Project:
Mobilising Nurses for the Health of Urban Girls

The Girl Child Policy and Research Project seeks to mobilise nurses, the largest group of health care providers in most nations, for the healthy development of girls aged 10 to 14 who live in large cities.

The Project addresses a broad spectrum of issues faced by today’s city girls.  It follows a three step progression: a baseline assessment of the issues and policies affecting girls on an urban and national level; focus group research, which allows the girls to speak out on the issues that concern them most; and lastly, active policy engagement by nurses through their national nursing associations.

A key aim of the project is to encourage nurses, working with various partners, to develop strategies and guidelines for policies, programs and services that reduce health risks for young girls and promote healthy public policy.

Nurses have been involved with children’s issues for a long time.  This Policy and Research Project is a key pillar of FNIF’s Girl Child Initiative, which focuses the work of the global nursing community in this area.  As health professionals, we know that education and healthy development are inextricably linked.  Our focus group research has shown that young girls recognize and value the opportunities their education offers and that schools provide an important source of health information.

You can contribute to the funding of this important work by purchasing the white heart pin, representing nursing world-wide, or by donating directly to the Girl Child Education Fund.

The Girl Child Project owes much to the pioneering research of Freda Paltiel, Canadian educator and international consultant on health and social policy.  Paltiel’s Coming of Age in the Metropolis served as the original impetus for ICN’s continuing work with the girl child, setting the standard as a cross-cultural, action-oriented study for, and with, girls at puberty.  The Project remains greatly inspired by Paltiel’s research, dedication and activism.

For more information contact:
Françoise Meret
Coordinator, The Girl Child Policy and Research Project
Florence Nightingale International Foundation
3 Place Jean Marteau
1201 Geneva Switzerland
tel: (41) 022-908-0100
fax: (41) 022-908-0101

Why the Girl Child?

The health status of girls in developing countries is often compromised.  Girls are less likely than boys to be immunised.  The girl child has a higher rate of death from measles, diarrhoea and respiratory infections.  She is usually brought to the clinic or hospital in a worse condition than a boy.  She is often the last to be fed.  This neglected health and nutrition leaves girls short of stature and malnourished at the outset of reproduction — and reproduction may be initiated before she has completed her growth.

In developed countries, research has shown that girls exhibit a distressing loss of self-esteem and self-confidence at the time of puberty, contributing to the incidence of eating disorders, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and girls who attempt suicide or run away from home.

Why Urban Girls?

Our urban areas are growing by approximately 60 million persons per year.  More than half of the industrialised world’s children live in urban areas, and UNICEF predicts that by the year 2025, some 60 percent of children in the developing world will live in cities. Half of them will be poor.

Urban children can be particularly at risk from their metropolitan environments: traffic, pollution, overcrowding and the shortage of open spaces in which to play all pose a challenge.  At the same time, the loss of homogeneous community values, traditional family structure, and private indoor space represent an increasing threat to traditional safety nets for our children.

Why Nurses?

Nurses are central in the provision of child and adolescent health care.  Because of their broad and versatile training in disease prevention, health promotion, counselling and caring roles, nurses work in all settings which have a direct bearing on the health of the girl child: schools, homes, workplaces and health facilities.

Nurses are also key members of multidisciplinary teams that go beyond the health sector to involve teachers, social workers, nutritionists, community development officers, and employment and social services.

The assessment and referral skills and wide networks of nurses provide opportunities for advocacy and lobbying for policy and services on behalf of the girl child.

Girl Child Partners

The Girl Child Project is open to all ICN member national nursing associations, who will be asked to commit to a two year project cycle.

Newest Partners:

FNIF is pleased to announce that the newest nursing associations to join are:


Ordem dos Enfermeiros

Av. Almirante Gago Coutinho, 75

1700-028 Lisboa


Email[email protected]

Web :



Swaziland Nursing Association

PO Box 2031



Email[email protected]

Past Partners and Reports:

The Project was launched by national nursing associations in Sweden and Botswana in 2002.  Reports from both countries were presented at to an international audience at ICN’s conference, Building Excellence Through Evidence, 27-29 June 2003 in Geneva.

To download the final report from Vardforbundet in Sweden, please see their website at:

The results of Vardforbundet’s research work are being used to inform a government sponsored national project called FLICKA, (Girl in Swedish), which focuses on the same target group as the GCP, with an aim to boost girls’ self confidence. The FLICKA project is managed by a member of the Swedish Intersectoral Committee that oversaw the Association's Project.

In Botswana, results from the Project were disseminated at a day-long workshop in Gabarone in December 2004.  The event was attended by nurses, health professionals, government ministries and NGOs, along with a delegation of Botswanan girls who were invited to ensure that their voices were heard by national health policy makers.  The workshop elicited national media attention and a call for a national conference on the Girl Child.