U.S. releases Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls

Adolescent girls leave school in Ethiopia. | Photo credit: U.S. Peace Corps

The U.S. State Department has launched the Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, a comprehensive interagency effort to improve the lives of adolescent girls worldwide, from their health and education to their ability to choose if, when and who they marry.

The strategy firmly puts the rights and needs of adolescent girls at the heart of U.S. foreign policy, according to Secretary of State John Kerry. He said: “The global strategy is not just another policy that we are going to file away somewhere… It is now a part of – and I want it to be a part of – our foreign policy DNA henceforth.”

Kerry also stressed that child marriage would be one the strategy’s focus areas. He said: “We will work to address early and forced marriage, a practice that too often prevents girls from developing their social and economic potential.”

“We will work to address early and forced marriage, a practice that too often prevents girls from developing their social and economic potential.”

Child marriage is addressed throughout the strategy’s five objectives which include:

  1. Enhancing girls’ access to quality education in safe environments
  2. Providing economic opportunities and incentives for girls and their families
  3. Empowering girls with information, skills, services and support
  4. Mobilising and educating communities to change harmful norms and practices
  5. Strengthening policy and legal frameworks and accountability

The strategy also outlines the United States’ approach to empowering girls globally, and how the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Peace Corps and the Millenium Challenge Coroporation plan to implement the strategy.

Members of Girls Not Brides USA, which have been advocating for such a wide-ranging strategy for several years and contributed to the content, welcomed the news:

“This strategy sends a clear signal that the U.S. is putting girls at the centre of global affairs and seeing them as whole beings, instead of thinking piecemeal about their lives and needs,” said Françoise Girard, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), one of the organisations co-chairing Girls Not Brides USA.

Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE, co-chair of Girls Not Brides USA, added: “The U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls is a significant step towards ensuring that girls in all parts of the world are free to pursue a life of independence, unencumbered by the harmful practice of early forced marriage.”

Lyric Thompson, Senior Policy Manager at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and co-chair of Girls Not Brides USA said: “After all, research tells us that when [girls are] given the opportunity to stay in school, access health information and services and learn to assert their rights to live free of violence and discrimination, entire communities – and indeed countries –benefit socially and economically.”

Next comes implementation. Ms Girard said: “We have the blueprint to a world where adolescent girls are educated, healthy, economically and socially empowered, and can live free from violence. The next step is to make sure the different agencies do their part and coordinate their efforts so we can achieve it.”

You can download the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls here.