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The Coalition for Adolescent Girls (CAG) gave its first statement at the Commission for the Status of Women this year. The statement was delivered by an adolescent girl from Girls Learn International.   Following is the statement:

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 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 or working in someone’s home with no ability to leave.

I have a voice but it is often not heard.

I have opinions but it is rare that I am asked to share them.

Ask me what it means to be an adolescent girl where I live.

When adolescent girls are safe, educated, healthy and empowered, we can create lasting change within our communities and end generations of poverty.

All forms of violence against adolescent girls reinforce overall ill health and diminish our ability to fully realize our rights, obtain a quality education, become an economically productive member of society, and actively participate in civic life.

The people and institutions charged with taking care of us, often fail to do so.

Adolescent girls are subjected to female genital mutilation in preparation for marriage.

Adolescent girls are treated as pieces of property – sold or traded into early marriage.  Every year 14 million of us are married before we turn 18.

Adolescent girls are sexually assaulted – by soldiers, peacekeepers, teachers, the police, their parents, their husbands …

Adolescent girls are trafficked into sexual slavery  – sold by those who make money from their bodies and bought by those who steal pleasure from them.

Adolescent girls are made pregnant while our bodies are still developing – while we are too young to give birth.  Too many of us are dying.

Adolescent girls are subjected to domestic and intimate partner violence.

Adolescent girls often do not know or have access to information about our sexual and reproductive rights or how to make healthy and informed choices concerning our bodies.

Help us care for our health and you will improve the lives of the children we may choose to have in the future.

Involve our families, religious leaders, teachers, men, boys, women and girls in shifting the cultural norms that condone violence against adolescent girls to those that prevent and punish violence against us.

We count.  Include adolescent girls in your programming.

Education and financial literacy empower us.

We want to learn:  educate us.

Ask us if your programs are effective and if they meet our needs or have an impact on our lives.

We are adolescent girls.  We are not invisible.

We want you to collect and share the data that tells our stories.

We have the right to live a life free from violence.

Laws must be enacted and enforced that protect our rights.

We need real access to justice when our rights are violated.

I am an adolescent girl.

Adolescent girls are asking you, the Member States, to commit to developing a global implementation plan of all the treaties and laws that already exist to end violence against me, and all women and girls.

We are adolescent girls.  Hear us.

This post, written by Jeff Meer, originally appeared on the PHI website and is available here.

The UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) holds its annual meeting from March 4 – 15 at the UN headquarters in New York. This year, approximately 3,000 women and men from around the world will attend.  The priority theme for this year’s meeting is “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”  Public Health Institute (PHI), which is an accredited NGO, is sending a small delegation to the meeting, including representatives from PHI projects Global Youth Coalition on AIDS, and What Works for Women and Girls in HIV/AIDS. Gillian Dolce, Melanie-Croce Galis and Jill Gay plan to attend UNCSW sessions, participate in side meetings and network.  

In addition, PHI produced a statement for inclusion in the record at the Commission meeting; read our recommendations to the international community to eliminate violence against women and girls and to mitigate the harmful effects of violence that does occur.

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This blog is brought to you by the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG) with financial assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The content is managed by FHI, which functions as the secretariat for the IYWG.
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