On March 20, 2014 the Coalition for Adolescent Girls* gave an oral statement at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at UN Headquarters in New York City. An adolescent girl presented the following statement:
Coalition for Adolescent Girls
Oral Statement for the General Discussion at the
58th Commission on the Status of Women
March 20, 2014
I am an adolescent girl and I address you today on behalf of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, a network of over 40 civil society organizations working around the world with and on behalf of girls like me.
I am an adolescent girl.
I stand in a gap. I am no longer a child but I am not yet a woman: My needs are unique.
I live in every village, every town, every city and every region of the world, although you may have to look hard to find me – I may be out of school, already married, working in someone’s home with no ability to leave, or living in a refugee camp.
I have a voice but too often I am not heard.
I have opinions but too often others make decisions for me.
Ask me what it means to be an adolescent girl where I live.
All forms of violence against us, especially those under the disguise of culture, honor, tradition or religion, undermine our human rights, cripple and isolate us so we can never stop being second-class citizens.
The people and institutions charged with taking care of us often fail to do so and may even threaten our safety.
We are sexually assaulted by soldiers, peacekeepers, police, our teachers, our husbands, our parents… and sometimes trafficked into slavery.
We are subjected to genital mutilation in preparation for marriage.
We are treated as pieces of property – sold into early marriage, sexual exploitation or to repay a debt. Every year 14 million of us are married before we turn 18.
We are made pregnant while our bodies are still developing and too young to give birth. So many of us are dying.
We are much more than our body parts.
We are activists now and soon we will be leaders. We are central to achieving progress in our communities and in our countries.
We want to learn: educate us so we will know how to lead.
Help us care for our health and make informed choices regarding our bodies so we can create a healthier future.
We are intelligent, dynamic, creative, and compassionate – let us help drive the world we want for ourselves and those who come after us.
Involve our families, religious leaders, and teachers in shifting cultural values from condoning violence against girls to preventing abuses against us.
Create safe spaces for us to reach our full potential, and ensure real access to justice when our rights are violated.
Help us end the perpetual cycles of inequality, discrimination, abuse and poverty.
We must not be invisible. Collect and share the data that tells our stories.
We count. Include adolescent girls in your budgets, programs and specific indicators. Don’t assume that by targeting youth, your efforts actually reach us; they don’t.
We know our needs. Ask us if your programs are effective and how they impact our lives.
Adolescent girls call on you, the Member States, to put us at the center of the development agenda.
We are neither children nor women. We are adolescent girls.
We are the future but we are also the present. Hear us.
* The Coalition for Adolescent Girls includes: 4Girls Glocal Leadership, Advocates for Youth, African Solutions to African Problems (ASAP), AGE Africa, American Jewish World Service, BRAC, CARE, Centre for Development and Population Activities, ChildFund International, ChildVoice International, Emerge Global, EngenderHealth, Equality Now, Every Mother Counts, FHI 360, Futures Without Violence, GADeF, Girl Scouts, Girls Learn International, Inc., Global Fund for Children, GreeneWorks, GYCA, Harpswell Foundation, Heshima Kenya, International Center for Research on Women, International Rescue Committee, International Women’s Health Coalition, International Youth Foundation, IntraHealth International, IPPF/WHR, Lwala Community Alliance, Marie Stopes International, Making Cents International, Mercy Corps, National 4-H Council, Partners of the Americas, Pathfinder International, Plan International USA, Population Council, Population Services International, Public Health Institute, Save the Children, UN Women, UNESCO, Winrock International, Women’s Refugee Commission, Women’s World Banking, the World Bank, World Pulse