Girls Connected is an initiative aimed at reaching out to adolescent girls aged 10 – 19 and older adolescents and young women aged 15 – 24 in Eastern and Southern Africa and beyond. It is premised on the fact that women’s empowerment is a co-condition for the realization of the SDGs. Why? Creating a just and sustainable world depends on the recognition, prioritization, and participation of adolescent girls and young women. Not only is active and full participation their human right, but meaningfully engaging them is critical for achieving gender equality and development at large. A growing body of evidence tells us that strategic investment in adolescent girls and young women’s education, health, safety, and economic opportunities can help end inter-generational poverty; improve their health; positively affect the most marginalized and underserved communities; and boost the economies of countries. Girls’ voices, experiences, and insights are key to the development of sustainable and effective programs, projects, and institutions, and yet they are often sidelined or excluded altogether. If we are to achieve global, national, and local programmatic and policy objectives, we need to trust, listen to, and partner with girls. We can do this by providing the space, support, and opportunity for girls to drive their own development agenda and by engaging them in creating the policies, programming, and research that affect their lives and communities.
It is with the above in mind that the SAT coordinated Girls Connected initiative focuses on keeping girls in safe schools, ensuring they have access to friendly SRHR services, advocate against early child marriages, comprehensive sexuality knowledge and menstrual health management – all critical issues to girls and young women’s empowerment. It focuses on putting girls first in health and development to ensure they are not left behind.