Nikki van der Gaag @Nikkivandergaag - Director of Gender Justice and Women’s Rights, Oxfam GB
Lisa Denney - Sierra Leone Country Manager, Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium; Research Associate, ODI
An array of initiatives has emerged across the development spectrum seeking to empower girls, in response to both concerns about inequitable progress and faith in the social dividends of investing in girls and women. From the Nike/DFID-funded Girl Effect, to the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up, to the G20’s G(irls)20 Summit, the development community are increasingly focusing on girls as the best catalysts for social change.
On the one hand, it makes sense to empower those who often bear the brunt of development problems. Yet this approach also assumes that girls have – or can be given – the power to transform their circumstances, and ignores the vast structural impediments to change, over which girls themselves have little influence. It can also create a narrow and idealised model of who ‘girls’ are and what they want.
This event takes a step back from the rush to invest in girls, to critically engage with questions of whether this focus is the most effective way to address development challenges impacting girls and women. Research is presented on a range of challenges from reducing teenage pregnancy, to economic empowerment, to violence prevention.