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The Key to Africa's Future is Female

The U.S. and the international community must engage and support adolescent girls and young women

Report by Natalie Gonnella-Platts and Crystal Cazier December 16, 2020
A woman in Nairobi, Kenya, calls for empowerment of women on November 13, 2019. (Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP via Getty Images)

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Now more than ever, the United States and the international community must do a better job of directly engaging and supporting adolescent girls and young women. This is particularly important in sub-Saharan Africa, home to nearly half of the world’s young people.

This population has the potential to accelerate progress for all, protect human dignity and demand accountability from governments and private-sector institutions. When empowered, educated, and healthy, that potential is exponentially expanded.

Sadly, the climb to succeed is exceptionally steep for adolescent girls and young women because of a lack of recognition of their agency and rights; inadequate access to healthcare, education, and skills training; and restrictive and patriarchal gender norms. These challenges are complex and interconnected and cannot be addressed in isolation of one another. Unless things change, gender inequality will further hinder opportunity at local and global levels. It’s time to level the playing field.

Read our new report and recommendations on how to provide pathways for girls to succeed in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.