When young people have access to the right resources and platforms, they can achieve anything. The West Africa Adolescent Girls Summit, designed and led by youth for youth, proved that when participants stood in front of the Vice President of Liberia with clear demands for social change.
“The thing that inspired me the most is that I want to be that change that I want to see. I purposely joined the adolescent girls’ team to help speak up for the voiceless and bring up issues that girls are facing around the globe on a daily basis.”– Esther, 17, Sierra Leone
Over 100 adolescent girls and boys attended the first West Africa Adolescent Girls Summit in Liberia. For three days, they participated in workshops and activities on
- advocating for human rights and community change for girls and women in West Africa,
- the power of advocacy and movement building,
- and how to resource the tools they need to mobilize social change in their communities.
The process that went into developing the summit banished all doubts surrounding youth-led initiatives or movements. For the last year, a team of 12 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 19 from both rural and urban communities in Liberia and Sierra Leone came together as the lead organizers for the summit. Together, they ironed out logistics, outlined agendas and workshops, and consolidated desired inputs and outputs for the summit. Ultimately, they wanted to create a safe space where other young Africans could be heard.
“What inspired me most to join the adolescent girls’ summit is that the summit is the only place where I can share my thoughts, especially things that are affecting me as a young teenage girl. For me, it is my safe space, and I think issues that are bothering me could be the same for most teenage girls, and sharing things affecting me will give opportunity for organizations working for us to have clear insight on how our issues as teenage girls are to be handled.”– Tenneh, 17, Sierra Leone
The workshops and activities resulted in a list of calls to action meant for the Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Taylor.
On the last day, the summit participants engaged in a dialogue with the Vice President on how they can collectively change the narrative around girls and women in the region.
The energy and passion brought by the young people was palpable. Each person stood proud and spoke confidently into the microphone when addressing the Vice President and their peers. For anyone watching and listening, it was clear that all these adolescents needed to spark change was access to the right resources, a microphone, and center stage.
Global Fund for Children supports a network of six community-based organizations in West Africa that are tackling violence against girls in their own communities, while empowering girls to exercise agency and autonomy over their bodies and their lives.