With more than half the world’s population under the age of 30, empowering and inspiring all girls and young women to serve as civic and political leaders is an important vehicle for positive change. Worldwide, only of parliamentarians are women and only of political representatives are under the age of 30, showing significant gaps in representation of girls and young women’s voices in civic and political spheres. The obstacles that girls and women face when taking on leadership roles are numerous, interlinked, compounding, and rooted in gender inequality.
As , girls’ levels of ambition and self confidence in their abilities are impacted by gender discrimination, ableism, and harmful stereotypes. Adolescent girls commonly face gender-based violence (GBV), including but not limited to: technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV); child early, and forced marriage and unions (CEFMU); lack of access to quality education; and lack of established pathways, mentors, or role models, amongst other barriers, which collectively limit their ability to engage in civic education or take on leadership roles. At the current rate of progress, it would take years to achieve gender balance in political participation.
Research shows that countries that provide a safe and enabling environment for women and girls to participate equitably in politics and public life have more inclusive and effective policy outcomes, are more peaceful and stable, and have higher economic growth. The ability of women and girls to participate safely, freely, and equally in political life and in society is a prerequisite for democracy and a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. This report articulates U.S. global priorities related to the engagement of adolescent girls in civic and political processes across policy, public diplomacy, and programming efforts.