The Year of the Girl

By Jennifer Orford

Over the next two weeks Impact will post the top 12 global health moments of 2015 with commentary from experts. We want to hear your thoughts, too. So login and comment, share on social media and reflect on what has been a pretty interesting year for global health.

In response to a growing movement against gender-based inequity and violence, global efforts intensified in 2015 to advance the health, education, and development of girls and young women around the world.

“The very progress we’ve made in HIV/AIDS over the last 20 years is at risk right now because of our lack of engagement with adolescent girls and young women,” said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator & U.S. Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.

On March 3, 2015, the White House announced a new effort to open the doors of education for girls around the world. Let Girls Learn builds on successes in primary level education to help adolescent girls make it through secondary school and beyond. According to the World Bank, every year of secondary school education completed increases a girl’s future earning power by 18 percent. Girls’ attendance in secondary school correlates with later marriage, later childbearing, lower maternal and infant mortality rates, lower birth rates, and lower rates of HIV/AIDS. Through the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama, working with the Peace Corps and USAID, Let Girls Learn will support community-generated and community-led girls’ education projects worldwide to reduce barriers that prevent adolescent girls from completing their education.

On World AIDS Day, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare joined the $210 million DREAMS partnership between US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect. The partnership launched at the end of 2014 takes aim at the alarming rate of new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women, who account for 71% of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. DREAMS helps girls and young women develop into determined, resilient, empowered, AIDS-free, mentored, and safe women.


DREAMS layers integrated, evidence-based interventions that address health, poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence, and lack of education in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

These efforts aim to positively impact girls and young women, and provide them with equal access to education, health care and work that will not only create stronger more resilient communities, but will also fuel sustainable economies.

These programs also align with Sustainable Development Goal number five, which underscores gender equality and women’s empowerment as a pre-condition for success. The nine targets under this goal range from ending all forms of discrimination against girls and women everywhere, to full participation in government and rights to economic resources to providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health care.

“The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals rightly include key targets for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls,” says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “They offer an opportunity for a global commitment to breaking intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination – and realizing our vision of a life of dignity for all.”

CAPTION: In London, England, First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Mulberry School for Girls about the Let Girls Learn initiative and the work being done to empower girls education around the world.

Click here to learn about one way PSI is working innovatively on behalf of adolescent girls.

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