The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030

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(Meeting the Girl Advocates in New York on the 26th September 2015)

Attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) summit in New York is an amazing opportunity that the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) and I have been honoured to accept for the fourth year in a row. This year's summit was especially important as it finalised the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) -- a crucial moment in the history and future of international development.

With 17 Global Goals, and 169 associated targets, it can be easy to get lost behind the statistics but it is important that we keep sight of the real people and stories that are at the core of why we have the goals. This is why I was especially excited about mentoring Girls Advocates at the invitation of the Girl Effect - an organisation that WBFA is proud to partner with.

The Girl Advocates were 20 adolescent girls, aged 12-19 years, from Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Brazil, Uganda, Malawi, USA, Syria, Bulgaria, Guatemala, and Rwanda, who were nominated to represent the girls in their home countries, globally. The Malala Fund's delegation was also included in the mentoring session, which sought to equip and empower the girls to secure new SDG commitments with and for girls. During our session, I shared my own leadership insights and answered their questions. Meeting these girls was inspiring and I left the event feeling as though our future was safe in the hands of these powerful, trailblazing adolescent girls, who at such a young age have already achieved so much, driven by a sense of obligation to the world around them and an unbreakable strength to fight for their beliefs.

Whilst Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls is most explicitly relevant for the empowerment of the girl-child, adolescent girls are crucial to the achievement and basis of every single Global Goal. At WBFA, we will work to achieve a number of the Global Goals, but as a global reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) advocate, the achievement of Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, is my primary focus. The empowerment of adolescent girls is vital to the achievement of this goal, as educating about their health empowers them to make healthy choices from a young age that will carry them through to womanhood. This will go on to ensure positive future health outcomes such as enabling them to make informed decisions regarding their reproductive health, their maternity care, and their children's health.

I have witnessed first-hand that whatever you teach a girl, she will carry it with her to womanhood, which is why I founded the All Kwara Womens' group, which empowers young girls in my home state of Kwara, Nigeria through education, economic empowerment, and community engagement. As the global community celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child on the 11th October, I would like to celebrate the Girl Advocates I met at UNGA, and thank them for their time, their strength, and their efforts to change the world on behalf of girls everywhere. Through their power, I know we will achieve our vision for 2030.

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