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Girls in emergencies

Our research shows that adolescent girls are one of the groups most at risk when disasters strike.

As a result of existing gender inequality and discrimination, adolescent girls are more likely to drop out of school, suffer from violence and discrimination, be exposed to sexually transmitted infections, marry early, become pregnant and lose their livelihoods during disasters. In short, disasters stand in the way of girls’ ability to reach their potential and thrive.

Disasters overwhelmingly affect the countries that can least afford to deal with them – 9 out of 10 take place in the developing world. Disasters intensify the problems and barriers girls face.

Girls’ needs overlooked

Get our newsletter to learn about our work with girls In addition, humanitarian and development responses are failing to address the needs of adolescent girls. They are failing to ensure girls have the knowledge, skills and resources to survive the impact of an emergency. They are also failing to provide for their needs when exposed to greater risks in the aftermath of disasters.

Now is the time to focus on adolescent girls and redress a major gap in humanitarian and development programming. Evidence demonstrates that girls whose needs are catered for can go on to be leaders for response and recovery within their communities. Girls whose needs are not considered face consequences that may affect them for the rest of their lives.

Upholding rights during disasters

We are advocating at global level to ensure the needs and rights of girls are included in disasters policy and programmes. This includes changing attitudes that cause gender-based violence, providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and ensuring economic opportunities.

Following emergencies, we support girls’ immediate needs and their rights. After the Nepal earthquakes in 2015 we introduced adolescent-friendly spaces. These spaces keep girls safe and allow them to openly discuss key issues such as sexual health. They also allow the needs of girls who are married, pregnant or young mothers to be addressed in a secure environment.

Maya presenting in an adolescent-friendly space, Nepal
Maya* presenting to her peers at an adolescent-friendly space.

Maya*, 16, is a young mother who attends an adolescent-friendly space in Dolakha district. “The adolescent-friendly space has shown me that I have value and a choice in my life. I now feel like I can start thinking of a future,” she says.

Addressing adolescent girls’ specific needs is essential to reduce the impact of crises and ensure girls are able to thrive.

*Name changed for child protection.