Adolescent girls

© UNICEF/MLWB2012-01629/Christine Nesbitt
Malawi: School girls, Maliyeti Chirwa and Sayini Nkhoma, at the handwashing facility outside the latrines at St Joseph's Primary School in the Mzimba district.

Adolescent girls have fundamental human rights including the right to education, food and healthcare as well as to be protected from violence. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) clearly outlines their rights and heralds them as the innate benefit of both girls and boys. UNICEF is guided by the CRC along with CEDAW and therefore is mandated to invest in adolescent girls as rights-bearers and a marginalized population.

The UN Joint Statement on Adolescent Girls underscores the understanding that “educated, healthy and skilled adolescent girls will help build a better future.” Adolescent girls are a vital section of the population; their empowerment and protection has broad ranging effects. Girls who stay in school, marry later and delay childbearing often have healthier children, are able to earn better incomes that benefit themselves, their family, community and nations. However, while girls are tremendous sources of support they also face specific vulnerabilities and challenges.

Yet adolescent girls experience higher rates of domestic and sexual violence, domestic servitude and exclusion from education, than adolescent boys. Discrimination against adolescent girls fosters the powerlessness many face in their communities. Intersectoral work which engages all programmatic areas, promote discussion and participation can lead to a decrease in harmful practices that disproportionately affect girls.

UNICEF’s focus on the Equity Approach emphasizes the need to invest in girls. Reaching the most marginalized including girls, enables UNICEF to reach millions more lives and accelerate progress toward the MDGs. Addressing inequalities is a strategic approach to improved results for the most disadvantaged. 

The Interagency Task Force on Adolescent Girls, of which UNICEF is a co-chair, works to develop interagency programming frameworks that specifically address the most marginalized and disadvantaged adolescent girls. The objective of the Interagency Programming Framework is to support the UN system in ensuring that programmes of cooperation with governments and civil society make known the situation of adolescent girls and prescribe practical action to fulfil their rights.

Child Marriage

Child marriage increases the risk of early pregnancy, morbidity, abuse and isolation while decreasing the likelihood of educational attainment. Highlighting child marriage as a key area of concern, country and regional offices in South Asia are working to decrease the incidence of child marriage in the region by 2015.

Half of the women ages 20-24 that were married before 18 live in South Asia: 32.6 million out of the 64 million. - 2012 State of the World’s Children Report

In India, village committees take on child marriage - Pratigya hears that Chandra Devi is planning to marry off her daughter Basanti. She picks up her shoulder bag and calls on Chandra Devi. Basanti is barely 15 years old. Pratigya has come to discuss child marriage. Play video



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From the field