Decisions made by political leaders in recent years have led to a loss of trust among almost half of girls and young women, according to a survey which comes as Sir Keir Starmer pledged to help break down the barriers they face.
The Labour leader, who spoke out to mark this year’s International Day of the Girl, said girls have “for too long” been held back by gender stereotypes.
He insisted it is his and his party’s mission for “every girl to be able to fulfil her dreams and achieve her ambitions no matter where she starts in life”.
Respondents said they felt the top five issues the UK government should prioritise are the cost of living crisis (56%), healthcare and the NHS (42%), mental health (30%), the economy (25%) and climate change (23%).
Asked how decisions of political leaders about these issues have caused them to feel in the past three years, almost half (47%) said they had lost trust, while 42% said they had been left feeling stressed, worried or anxious about the decisions.
A fifth said the political decisions had made them stop engaging in politics or current affairs.
A total of 1,000 girls and young women aged from 14 to 24 in the UK were surveyed online by Opinium Research in July.
“The actions of those in power are key to how girls view participation in politics, and it is vital that they listen to and meaningfully involve girls in decision-making spaces.”
In a video message released by the charity, Sir Keir said: “For too long gender stereotypes have held girls back, but girls are smashing down these barriers, demanding a seat at the table and making their voices heard.
“My mission is for every girl to be able to fulfil her dreams and achieve her ambitions no matter where she starts in life. This matters for them personally, for the success of our country, and to meet the global challenges we face.”
He said the mission also matters to him personally, adding: “I want my daughter to grow up in a world where girls everywhere are empowered and where not only their rights are realised, but their aspirations too.”
Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is also handing over her Instagram account to two girls for the day.
Meanwhile, new research from Girlguiding suggested confidence levels among girls drop significantly as they reach adolescence, compared with boys.
The findings, from surveys, interviews and focus groups with over 21,000 girls and volunteers, found that overall girls aged between 10 and 15 report lower confidence and self-worth than boys.
While there was little to no difference in girls’ and boys’ confidence at 10 years old, by the age of 12 girls were 17% less likely to report high confidence compared to boys, increasing to 24% by age 15.
Girlguiding said the trend “can be seen across UK society, even when controlling for outside factors like ethnicity, disability, religion or location”.