The Adolescent Girls Summit is more than just a summit, it’s a powerful movement contributing to a gender equal world

By Global Fund for Children | March 25, 2024 | Africa & The Middle East | Education, Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

Editor’s note: This blog post has been written by Amé Atsu David, Regional Co-Director for Africa and Remijus Iweobi, Program Assistant at Global Fund for Children.

The second bi-annual Adolescent Girls Summit (AGS) starts tomorrow in Monrovia, Liberia. Over the next four days, adolescent girls from 11 countries across West Africa, English speaking and French speaking, from different backgrounds with intersecting identities, will connect, share, inspire and collectively advocate for their rights.

The summit is entirely planned by the adolescent girls and boys aged 13-19 with technical support from Global Fund for Children, YOCEL, and associated community-based organizations.

The AGS is more than just a summit – it’s a movement of adolescent girls and boys who are focused, passionate and ready to put in the hard work to bring about a more gender equal world.

Participants posing for a group photo at the Adolescent Girls Summit in 2022. © GFC
A dedicated space to speak and be heard

Adolescent girls in West Africa can encounter a myriad of challenges including gender-based violence and discrimination, harmful social norms and practices and limited access to education, sexual and reproductive health information and services. Their needs, views and perspectives are rarely heard due to the common belief that they lack the maturity, knowledge, and ability to contribute meaningfully to discussions and initiatives that directly impact them.

The Adolescent Girls Summit rectifies that.

“I have never been in a platform where 80% of participants are adolescents, my peers. I was happy to see that the girls can take and make decisions and discuss on issues they face and lead the process. In many gatherings, it has been older people leading and making decisions; therefore, the feeling of me as an adolescent owning the space was extraordinary.” – Khalida Tamu, 2022 AGS participant

Building on a track record of success

The first AGS held in 2022 sparked a profound transformation among the girls who participated. A comprehensive review conducted after the summit showed how the experience empowered these girls, boosting their self-confidence and inspiring them to pursue leadership roles. In addition, many of them emerged as influential leaders and catalysts for positive change within their homes, schools, and communities.

“I used to be a shy person, but as a result of the AGS, I am now outspoken. In my community, with support from CASE SALONE, (GFC partner organisation) I engage adolescents on a weekly life skills program, and I also engage my peers in school about their rights and responsibilities. I’m now a proud influencer and a champion for change.” – Gitta Brima, 2022 AGS participant

A group discussion at the Adolescent Girls Summit in 2022. © GFC
Adolescents leading the way

What sets the AGS apart is that the girls aren’t just participants; they are architects of change, driving the planning, shaping the agenda, and leading discussions for meaningful action. From selecting topics for discussion, to promoting the event, adolescents are the driving force behind every aspect of the summit. Their voices, experiences, and perspectives guide the summit’s direction, ensuring it remains relevant, inclusive, and impactful.

“The AGS planning process has been nothing short of amazing, granting adolescents the opportunity to shape and organize the summit according to our vision. It’s more than just an event; it’s a powerful movement driving gender equality, inclusion, and diversity across West African countries.” – Favour Unoh, member of the Regional Adolescent Girls Advisory Panel and AGS 2024 Ambassador

Space for girls, and boys, to work in partnership.

Gender equality is not just a girls’ or women’s issue; it requires the active participation of boys and men. By promoting gender-inclusive environments, the AGS creates safer and more supportive spaces for all the young people who attend. Boys learn that they have a responsibility to challenge harmful behaviors such as harassment, violence, and discrimination. They become active participants in creating a culture of consent and equality where girls are valued and respected.

“It is important for boys to work with girls in achieving gender equality as it promotes a unified effort towards changing societal barriers. AGS is playing a great role in creating a space for both girls and boys to work together by dialoguing, understanding one another, and advocating for a gender equal world.” – Francis Emmanuel Ensah, member of the Adolescent Influencers Movement

Francis behind the camera at the Adolescent Girls Summit in 2022. © GFC
Space for intergenerational and policy dialogue

The 2024 AGS will bring together several hundred adolescent girls, boys and youth along with high-level officials and various stakeholders, from 11 countries in West Africa – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The sessions will provide a platform for critical discussions, intergenerational and policy dialogue on key issues affecting girls and young women including comprehensive sexuality education, child marriage, female genital cutting, diversity, barriers to girls’ education, peer pressure management, adolescent mental health, climate change, and more.

However, the space will not solely focus on addressing challenges; it will also provide an opportunity for celebrating the achievements and milestones in the journey towards gender equality as well as the adolescent empowerment and the resilience it takes to make progress.

Collaboration to advance gender justice

The AGS serves as a catalyst for collective action, innovation, and solidarity in the global movement for adolescent girls’ rights and empowerment. It provides a platform for funders, UN agencies, and international and national non-governmental organizations committed to girls’ rights to pool resources, expertise, and networks for collective impact.

“Working with GFC and other partners has not only been a rewarding experience but a powerful testament to our collective commitment towards empowering and amplifying the voices of young people across the region. The AGS has provided a platform where the aspirations, challenges, and resilience of adolescent girls are not only acknowledged but celebrated, and it has been my utmost joy witnessing and experiencing that.” – Dorah Muhanuuzi, The Fund for Global Human Rights

To find out more about the Adolescent Girls Summit, read our 2024 Summit blog series:

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