UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate takes a stand for adolescent girls during visit to Rwanda
Nakate calls for US$ 1 billion global investment at Women Deliver Conference to improve girls’ access to health, education, and protection
KIGALI/NEW YORK, 18 July 2023 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate is joining thousands of girls and women at the Women Deliver Conference in Rwanda this week to call for increased investment to protect and promote the rights of adolescent girls.
Ugandan climate activist Nakate made the call during a one-week visit with UNICEF to Kigali, Rwanda, to meet girls and women who are working to overcome the deprivations they face daily, including gender inequality and climate change.
“There is no climate justice without gender justice,” said UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate. “Together, climate crises and gender inequality cut across every part of a girl’s life. But in a world where every girl is listened to, I know the world would stand a better chance, both when it comes to the existential threat of climate change, and to becoming a more equal, innovative, powerful, and beautiful place.”
Studies show that girls and young women are the hardest hit by climate change. According to latest estimates, by 2025, climate change could prevent over 12 million girls from completing their education every year. Girls are the first to leave school to assist their families affected by changing climate conditions, shouldering additional household responsibilities during crises. Scarce water resources and unequal gender roles in communities force girls and women to embark on long and unsafe journeys to fetch water, while droughts and floods can make girls miss school during their periods due to the lack of water and safe toilets.
Ahead of the Women Deliver 2023 Conference – the world’s largest multi-sectoral convening to advance gender equality – Nakate kicked off the Girls Deliver: Pre-Conference on Adolescent Girls and launched UNICEF’s call for US$ 1 billion in new investments from the international community, targeting adolescent girls globally with interventions that address urgent health, education, and protection needs by 2025. The call builds on UNICEF’s global Adolescent Girls Strategy – a three-year agenda developed with and for girls that aims to drive greater attention to and funding for at least 20 million adolescent girls in 30 countries as part of UNICEF’s commitments.
During the visit, Nakate also travelled to a remote community in Kirehe District, Eastern Province, where UNICEF-supported the conversion of a diesel-run water supply system into a solar-powered system, benefitting around 11,000 adolescent girls and women. She met girls that spoke about the difference the new system has made to their daily lives, including shorter distances to fetch water at a public communal site, leading to more time for learning and rest, and less threat of injury and abuse. The cost of operation has also been cut in half, and exposure to pollution in the community reduced.
“Adolescent girls are demanding change. We must listen, and we must act,” said UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Rania Dagash. “Despite the stark challenges they face, adolescent girls and women are leading the call for change around the world, building powerful, intersectional movements. We know the world needs to do things differently if we are to step up to the scale of this challenge. Girls’ voices must be at the heart of our work.”
UNICEF targets girls’ and women’s needs in its programming, including investing in skills-building and learning environments that allow girls to thrive; improving access to quality healthcare and safety from all forms of violence and harmful practices; and supporting girl- and women-led organisations so they can shape solutions for their own communities.
“In Kirehe, I met 13-year-old Adele who shared an all too familiar story,” added Nakate. “Early every morning, before school, Adele trekked a total of an hour to fetch the water her family needs for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. She balanced a heavy 20-liter jerrycan on her head, repeating the journey a second time at the end of her school day. Adele told me the new solar-powered site reduces her entire journey to just 25 minutes, making her feel safer and giving her more time to learn and play. Girls like Adele do not live single issue lives, so it’s critical that donors and governments support projects that protect both their rights and their environments.”
Notes to Editors
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UNICEF also launched on 17 July the new Adolescent Girl Country Profiles, providing a snapshot of rigorous data on the situation for adolescent girls on key indicators across the breadth of girls’ lives, for every country in the world. These demonstrate the stark challenges adolescent girls face across a range of issues, from teenage pregnancy, HIV and anaemia to child marriage, barriers to education and training, and violence. Access the data here.
UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Rwanda, visit www.unicef.org/rwanda.