Transforming the lives of girls and young women

Type Working Paper
Title Transforming the lives of girls and young women
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
The purpose of this study is to analyse the pivotal role discriminatory social institutions play in
depriving girls and young women of the opportunity to achieve their full potential. There has been
remarkable progress for women and girls over the past two decades in some areas of human
development and wellbeing, particularly in education. However, despite this, and in spite of calls for
greater achievements in gender equity, progress in other areas, such as on early marriage and
pregnancy, maternal mortality and gender-based violence, has been slow, with relatively limited
meaningful change.
This suggests the need for a better understanding of the factors that are hindering change, and how
these affect adolescent girls throughout the course of their lives, from childhood to adulthood. In
particular, the study of which this paper is part of contests that the frameworks typically used to
analyse gender do not reflect the realities of girls’ lives, which in many contexts are shaped by social
institutions and their values more than is usually recognised. As such, insufficient information limits
our abilities to design policies and programmes which address the realities of girls’ lives and in
particular the social and cultural values and processes which limit girls’ view of themselves, their
equal acess to opportunites, assets and services. Thus, in order to make robust and sustainable
transformations for girls and young women, it is critical that broader poverty reduction and
development frameworks do not simply include girls as part of a predetermined approach, and instead
embrace a more nuanced understanding of gender-discriminatory social institutions and how these
affect different aspects of adolescent girls’ lives – individually, within their households and
communities - impacting on their development and wellbeing.

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