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Adolescent girls and female children

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • Special protection issues for adolescent girls and female children are often overlooked by programmes that group women and girls together.  Viewing adolescent girls and female children as specific populations is essential to understanding their unique challenges and meeting their needs during times of conflict (Siddiqi, 2012).
  • There is not yet an evidence base on best practices for addressing the needs of girls in conflict and post-conflict settings. However, the following recommendations can be taken into account when designing programmes to address and prevent VAWG against adolescent girls and female children:
    • Increase funding for programmes specifically targeting adolescent girls and female children
    • Engage girls as leaders in the assessment, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all programmes aimed to meet their needs.  Programmes with the best intentions will often fail to involve girls in the process, ultimately working on the girls’ behalf but not with them (Bruce, 2011). Girls have a great deal of knowledge, experience and expertise that are invaluable in the effective design of violence prevention and treatment programmes.
    • Create and support safe spaces for girls to connect and form community, as well as share skills and experiences (Bruce, 2011).
    • Provide adequate protection for dwellings of single girl-headed households (see camp management).
    • Support girls’ education and address barriers to attending school.
    • Support girls’ livelihoods and access to economic assets such as entrepreneurship opportunities, vocational skills training and financial literacy education (Paik, 2012).


    Example:  Working with survivors of gender-based violence in emergencies and post-conflict situations, the International Rescue Committee made broad shifts in internal policy and programming, after learning that 45 percent of survivors seeking assistance in its programs around the world were under 18 years old. Originally assuming that its women’s programs were meeting the needs of adolescent girls, the organization recognized through further data analysis that its program design either unintentionally excluded them or increased their vulnerability. It began a conversation internally (in the Women’s Protection and Empowerment, Child Protection, and Health units) and externally (including the Population Council, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and others), which resulted in the identification of the following actions needed to improve programs for adolescent girls and ensure that the organization was doing no harm:

    - Better targeting and segmenting of populations within programs

    - Understanding age-appropriate needs

    - Creating safe spaces and recruiting girl mentors

    - Developing positive social networks with mentors

    - Working with families to establish support systems for adolescent girls

    Building upon this shift in approach and its significant experience in these areas, IRC then developed integrated program models to maximize its collective response to adolescent girls.  (Excerpted from Siddiqi, A. 2012. Missing the Emergency: Shifting the Paradigm for Relief to Adolescent Girls.” The Coalition for Adolescent Girls. p. 11.)

Additional Resources

The Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action were launched in Geneva October 2012 by the Child Protection Working Group.  Also see the video.

For information on addressing and preventing violence against female youth, see

Organizations Working with Adolescent Girls and Female Children

Women’s Refugee Commission


Women’s Refugee Commission provides resources, reports and programmes for displaced adolescent girls.   

The Girl Effect



The Girl Effect hosts resources, research documents, campaigns, videos and tool kits for the purpose of empowering adolescent girls around the globe.


Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF)



Equality Now’s Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF) has developed guidelines for better addressing violations of girls’ rights and equipping legal systems to meet the needs of adolescent girls. As of 2012 they have worked on cases of rape, abduction and forced marriage in Ethiopia; rape of schoolgirls in Zambia; gang rape in Kenya; and gang rape by police in Pakistan, among others.


The Coalition for Adolescent Girls




The Coalition for Adolescent Girls provides a platform for sharing information, tools, and resources among more than 30 international organizations that design, implement and evaluate programs that benefit girls throughout the developing world 


Together for Girls



Together for Girls is a global public–private partnership dedicated to eliminating sexual violence against girls. The partnership focuses on three pillars: conducting and supporting national surveys on the magnitude and impact of violence against children, particularly focused on sexual violence against girls; supporting coordinated program actions in response to the data; and leading global advocacy and public awareness efforts to draw attention to the problem and promote evidence-based solutions.