Why Adolescent Girls – Women Deliver

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Why Adolescent Girls

Women Deliver’s mission is to ensure that every girl and every woman has full control over her body and her life. We focus on securing and advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of girls during adolescence as a key period that impacts the course of their lives, including their SRHR as women in adulthood.

Our definition of an adolescent girl

Anyone who has lived experience as a girl or identifies as a girl and they begin to be sexualized by their communities and societies. While this can happen at different ages in different cultural contexts, Women Deliver defines adolescence as ages 10-24, as this includes when adolescence occurs in most contexts and later transitions to adulthood.

Starting in adolescence, girls’ opportunities and life choices start to shrink as the outside world seeks to contain and control them and their bodies. They are at risk of things like early or forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. Their access to health care — particularly sexual and reproductive information and care — can be dramatically curtailed, as can their access to education and future economic opportunities. For many girls — based on their race, economic status, physical appearance, assigned sex at birth, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender expression — their life choices shrink faster and control from the outside world is harsher.

For far too many women, by the time they reach adulthood, the course of their lives has been shaped by events and experiences that took place during adolescence — many of which they did not have control over

Changing the life trajectory of this generation’s adolescent girls is the most effective way to make meaningful progress towards gender equality.

Women Deliver believes the most powerful way to make a quantum leap forward in gender equality is to change the life trajectory of this generation of adolescent girls. They are most susceptible to having their life choices shrink, their bodies controlled, and to bear the brunt of harmful coping techniques to shocks and crises. Failing this generation of adolescent girls will trigger decades of stagnation towards our collective vision of a more equitable and just future for all. Securing their health and rights is not only the right thing to do — it’s the most powerful tool we have to overcome the existing barriers on the road to a gender-equitable world.

We also believe that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability for girls, it is also a distinct widow of time where, with the right tools and resources, girls can and do lead the charge on advancing positive change for their entire lives. Additionally, if systems and services center the needs of adolescent girls — often the hardest group to reach — other groups, like women of all ages and identities, will likely benefit too.

Adolescent girls do not live their lives in silos. There are countless factors that impact their ability to access sexual and reproductive health care and services. Women Deliver has identified three pressing issues that directly affect adolescent girls and their SRHR: universal health coverage, the climate crisis, and anti-rights movements globally. These issues also represent areas where Women Deliver draws from our two decades of institutional knowledge and expertise to help drive lasting change.

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