Every day, adolescent girls are making decisions about their lives and futures. These decisions are shaped by a wide range of complex and interlinked factors, and impact everything from where they go, who they talk to, and what goals they set for themselves to whether they have sex, when, and with whom.
Despite advancements in many areas of girls' lives, progress on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) remains too slow and is leaving too many behind. Using a feminist approach, where girls' agency and decision making is at the centre of our analysis, we examine what changes are needed in systems and structures – the supportive enabling environment – to enable girls to claim their rights.
We are calling for urgent and focused attention to address the layers of social and gender norms that still surround adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive rights in each country and community, preventing them from putting their knowledge of these rights into practice.
Our feminist approach
By centring our analysis in questions of girls’ agency and decision-making, we are defining an explicitly feminist approach to understanding their needs when it comes to SRHR information and services, that:
- tackles discrimination and inequality at the root level
- takes an intersectional view
- centres agency and human rights
- prioritises meaningful collaboration and participation.
The importance of power and agency in a universal health coverage agenda for adolescent girls
Drawing on findings from Power to Decide, in a commentary for Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters Journal, we highlight the need to fully understand and unpack the power structures that regulate girls’ mobility, sexuality, and educational and economic opportunities, and in particular the use of violence to maintain systems of gender inequalities, in order to transform health systems to reach them.