A vital opportunity to empower girls and change the world

A group of adolescent girls talks about child marriage as part of a U.K. Department of International Development program to help young girls and women avoid the practice. Adolescent girls must be embedded in the design, content, monitoring and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. Photo by: Jessica Lea / Department for International Development / CC BY

Throughout the world, adolescent girls face tremendous discrimination and rights violations both as females and as young people. Yet, when girls are able to grow up healthy, educated, safe and empowered, they emerge as adults better able to ensure their own success and well-being — and that of others. Achieving this requires working with girls, not just for them, so they can fulfill their potential and become leaders in their communities, countries, and the world.

Saturday, Oct. 11 marks the International Day of the Girl Child — an appropriate moment to consider the challenges faced by girls and the enormous potential they have to be catalysts for development.

In the coming year, the international community will decide on the post-2015 development agenda, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals. Girls were left out of the MDGs. It is vital that this doesn't happen again. Over the next year there is therefore a critical need to ensure that gender equality, the rights of women and girls, and girls’ voices are central to discussions that will craft the new global agenda.

We and our colleagues in the European Parliament are determined to make sure we manage to achieve this.

What is to be done?

We need to see adolescent girls embedded in the design, content, monitoring and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. We welcome the increased focus on adolescent girls during the opening events of this year’s U.N. General Assembly but we can and must do better. The return on investment in adolescent girls is high — but so are the costs of excluding them.

We believe that a strong and deliberate investment in adolescent girls is necessary if we are to succeed in accelerating progress on the toughest global challenges, achieve equality, advance human rights and end global poverty.

Adolescent girls are not just a population — they are crucial to every sustainable solution. We are encouraged that adolescent girls have gained prominence in the preliminary deliberations of the U.N. Open Working Group crafting the post-2015 framework. We welcome progress made in those discussions on issues such as nutrition, ending harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage, as well as the emphasis on data disaggregation.

We want this language maintained and strengthened, and support specific references to both the rights and needs of adolescent girls.

Over the next year, world leaders have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the lives of adolescent girls and, in turn, the world. Looking ahead, as members of the European Parliament committed to girls' rights, we see an opportunity to increase the success, impact and sustainability of the post-2015 framework by ensuring that girls are free from violence and exploitation, that there is focus on girls' education and skills, and that there is access to safe health and nutrition information and services.

We will work within the parliament and with the other institutions to ensure the European Union speaks with a single, strong voice on this issue at the United Nations negotiating table. We want the EU and member state governments to uphold and advance the rights and needs of adolescent girls during intergovernmental negotiations — and to directly engage them in a meaningful way throughout the future process.

This will result in a more sustainable, impactful and successful post-2015 framework for all — particularly for girls around the world.

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About the authors

  • Linda mcavan

    Linda McAvan

    Linda McAvan is a British member of the European Parliament for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. She is the Chair of the European Parliament's Development Committee.
  • Maria arena

    Maria Arena

    Maria Arena is a Belgian member of the European Parliament for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. She is a member of the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.