Globally, approximately 30 percent of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 experience emotional, sexual, or physical violence by a partner during their lifetime. According to the WHO, suicide ranks as the leading cause of death among 15 to 19-year-old girls worldwide, outpacing maternal causes and HIV/AIDS. Linked to adolescents’ risk of experiencing violence and mental health issues are poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes, including early and unwanted sexual debut, child marriage and early childbearing. One in eight adolescents grow up in countries with a high burden of disease where risks of violence, poor SRH outcomes, and injury are prevalent. Despite these numbers and their unique vulnerabilities, there is a dearth of evidence that focuses on adolescents and the gendered dimensions of the global challenges of violence, mental health, and SRH.
The Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) are the first-ever global surveys that focus on violence against children issues. The VACS were designed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and implemented under the leadership of country governments with participation from in-country partners. By using publicly available VACS datasets from Cambodia, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland and Tanzania, we aim to better understand and share evidence on the associations between the different forms of violence (sexual, emotional, and physical), mental health, suicide, SRH and gender attitudes among adolescents ages 13-19 through a gender lens. To our knowledge, this will be the first time that a multi-country quantitative analysis will be conducted using VACS datasets to investigate these important relationships.
In partnership with our co-funder Together for Girls (TfG), ICRW further aims to investigate the roles that sexual exploitation and different levels of social support play in an adolescent’s life. Additionally, ICRW and TfG will collaborate on the development of research and policy dissemination materials for the use of policymakers, researchers, and program implementers in the field.