Attitude. Emotional. Angsty. Three words that are often used to describe adolescent girls. Alternatively, 3 things I feel when I think about how routinely adolescent girls are forgotten.
When I was an adolescent girl I felt powerful. Yet, as with millions of girls and young women across the globe, we are led to believe that we are not.
Why are we still fighting to be taken seriously? To be heard and included? It seems obvious to me that so many issues could be solved if adolescent girls are listened to and invested in. And I’m not the only one.
Girls spoke their truth at the G7 Whistler Meetings
In June, a key moment came for adolescent girls to be acknowledged as the powerful group they are. Plan International Canada worked with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and NGO partners to ensure young female advocates were included in the G7 Whistler Ministerial Meetings.
I began to lean into the role of a leader.
It was EPIC. Young women were given the chance to meaningfully contribute to the development process by sharing their lived experiences and their solutions to the issues young women and girls face in their home countries.
Simply put: they spoke truth to power. Their presence and strong messages resonated with the G7 ministers and truly made an impact.
“I was deeply humbled when people I had never met came up to me afterwards to thank me for speaking the hard truth,” said Canadian activist, Hannah. The meeting had a profound effect on her, too.
“After interacting with a bunch of powerful and wonderful women I began to lean into the role of a leader. While talking about the terrible injustices my people face to the ministers I was surprised at their reaction. While looking around the table I saw these leaders attentively listening, I saw the concern in their eyes. In myself, I saw hope for indigenous people around the world.”
Irmine Fleury, a young activist from Benin has also been inspired by the meetings.
“Being invited to this forum is proof that the cause for which I am fighting on a daily basis is noble and that my actions are supported. For girls around the world, this declaration means hope is allowed; their ability to contribute effectively and actively to the development process is recognised.”
Girls deserve respect and opportunities
Ultimately, the coalition of NGOs and girl advocates helped secure The Whistler Declaration on Unlocking the Power of Adolescent Girls for Sustainable Development. This is a HUGE win for adolescent girls globally.
We have not forgotten your promises and we are counting on you.
The declaration echoes Plan International’s strong belief that girls deserve equal respect, investment and opportunities. It supports the empowerment and inclusion of adolescent girls globally while recognising the multiple and complex barriers they face. It promises the commitment of the G7 to ensure girls get their basic human rights, and it has significance even beyond that.
“The declaration signals a new approach to development. One that focuses all of our energies not on an issue but on a group of people - and the most vulnerable but powerful people in the world are adolescent girls,” says Amanda Sussman, Head of Policy at Plan International Canada.
As I read the declaration for the first time, my angst and attitude transformed into hope. It’s a big deal. But it comes with responsibility: we must ensure that listening to and including adolescent girls is not a fad.
“We will continue to hold governments accountable,” says Irmine. “My message to them: we have not forgotten your promises and we are counting on you.”
Girls can change the world
It is the responsibility of all countries to invest in their adolescent girls and believe in their value. The G7 ministers said it best: adolescent girls are 'the agents of change' but they will need the investment, opportunities and tools to continue to do so.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have been told that my generation will change this world. But to fulfil these high hopes, we must be heard. We must be included. And in the case of the Whistler Declaration, we must ensure that these commitments are followed through and that adolescent girls are meaningfully included in the process.
So to girls and their allies: read the declaration, share it with your friends and hold your governments accountable to their commitments. Join young women like Irmine and Hannah in the good fight.
Be allies to adolescent girls. They truly are our greatest hope for the future.