Edited by Mima Perisic, Marina Komarecki and Alberto Minujin (2012)
Girls should be the cornerstone of their societies. They have enormous potential, although it often goes unrealized and untapped. They can become leaders, household decision-makers, businesswomen, and important agents of social transformation. We know that investments in the development of adolescent girls translate into significant long-term benefits for society as a whole. But girls in developing countries remain particularly disadvantaged and underserved.
While recent years have seen a growing interest and recognition of adolescent girls, we only need to reflect for a moment on some facts to know there are great challenges ahead of us. Child marriage victimizes girls vastly more than boys, even in countries where prevalence is relatively low. Child marriage undermines the dignity and rights of the adolescent girl, and puts her at high risk if she becomes pregnant.
According to UNAIDS, in Southern Africa, HIV prevalence among young women aged 15-24 is on average about three times higher than among young men of the same age. This must cause us to pause and think. While girls’ comprehensive knowledge about HIV is increasing, it remains difficult for them to translate that knowledge into power and to protect themselves. This is due to factors such as sexual violence, an inability to share their HIV status without fear, and the challenges in negotiating safe sex within and outside marriage. In other words, it is about power relationships. That has to change.
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