ICRW Co-Hosted Event: What We Can Do So Girls Can Thrive

Article Date

10 October 2014

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

In commemoration of the International Day of the Girl this year, Girls Not Brides USA collaborated with Representative Betty McCollum (MN-4) to host a special event on Capitol Hill yesterday to discuss strategies to enable girls to live safe, healthy, and empowered lives.

The theme of the International Day of the Girl this year is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence.” Every year, nearly 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married worldwide, forced into a life of servitude. Child marriage is not only a human rights abuse, it also severely undermines global progress on ending poverty, strengthening economies and ensuring universal access to education and healthcare. Adolescent girls worldwide face a great number of barriers that prevent that from reaching their full potential, and participate economically or socially in their communities. 

Moderated by ICRW’s Ann Warner, Senior Gender and Youth Specialist, panelists included: Erin Kennedy, Senior Advisor of Advocacy and Partnerships at CARE USA; Helena Minchew, Program Assistant at the International Women’s Health Coalition; and Stephanie Psaki, Associate at the Population Council. The speakers took a deep dive into the various complex challenges facing adolescent girls and evidence based solutions to addressing such challenges – child marriage; HIV/AIDS; education and school violence; and lack of reproductive health and rights needs. 

“When a young girl becomes a bride, the consequences are lifelong –she is robbed of her childhood. She is forced to have sex before she is ready, she is more likely to be beaten and potentially drop out of school, she will likely get pregnant before her body is ready and is at increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Her life options vanish,” said Kennedy.

“Child marriage also has intergenerational and societal implications. When girls are deprived of their opportunities to fully develop their potential, they will be less healthy, less productive and less empowered adults. Child marriage perpetuates poverty, gender inequality and poor health and development,” added Kennedy.

Stephanie Psaki of Population Council spoke about education and school violence and the need to invest more in research. With regards to school violence, “the issue has received an increasing amount of political attention, the truth is that our data are much more limited…we need to distinguish more clearly between describing violence and attributing things like gender gaps in educational attainment to violence- until there is more evidence,” she said.

After offering their insight into issues facing adolescent girls, speakers also discussed the interconnectedness of these issues and emphasized the need for a holistic and multi-sectoral approach to meet the needs of girls and unlock their enormous potential.

“This is truly a unique moment in time,” said Warner. “Girls have captured the attention of many of the world’s leaders. But now is the time to go beyond talking about them, their needs, their potential. The time is to act, to ensure that the next generation of girls, boys, women, and men is healthier, safer, more prosperous, more involved in their communities, and more empowered.”