Adolescent girls need our attention now more than ever. While solid gains have been made in education enrollment, adolescent girls’ retention and completion rates fall far short of any desirable outcome.
Several factors are at play, and for years now, we have identified and documented these: abuse, exploitation, sexual and gender-based violence, harmful social and cultural norms such as child marriage, early pregnancy, female genital mutilation, domestic servitude and other forms of child labor as well as poverty.
These factors are exacerbated in crisis, fragile and conflict-affected contexts. We know there is rarely one particular barrier that adolescent girls face, but more often than not overlapping and complex vulnerabilities.
So, where are the large-scale interventions designed specifically to defeat these inequities?
At a policy level, the 2018 Charlevoix Declaration is a valiant effort to close the yawning gap around adolescent girls’ education and training needs. It promotes inclusive, quality, equitable education for girls, adolescent girls, and women in developing and crisis-affected contexts.
The Declaration represents a commitment from G7 leaders to build partnerships, improve coordination, prioritize investment, and monitor the progress of existing gaps in gender equality. It recognizes that access to learning and technical skills training for girls and women is fundamental to the fulfillment of human rights, social development, and economic growth.
The Declaration represents a collective will among donor governments, international organizations, and implementing partners to adjust the lens and pull girls and women into sharp relief. Refreshingly, its language explicitly calls out adolescent girls, making them—and the unique challenges they face—visible, distinct, and worthy of their own consideration and targeted investments.
So where are we now, almost three years after the promises made in Charlevoix?