On Wednesday, I participated in a World Bank event for their Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI). AGI was launched in 2008 as part of the World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan – Gender Equality as Smart Economics – which helps to increase women’s economic opportunities by improving their access to the labor market, agricultural land and technology, credit and infrastructure services.
Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, The World Bank Group, opened the event. My role was to both address the challenges girls face today and outline what the U.S. is doing to help them enter the workforce and pursue their dreams. For example, right now, girls make up 70 percent of the 125 million out-of-school youth around the world. One in seven girls in the developing world marries before the age of 15. And in too many countries, girls struggle every day with issues ranging from social isolation and violence to lack of access to aid and basic services. And just two weeks ago, at the United Nations, the President promised that the United States will do its part to invest in women and girls around the world, because, as he put it, “When mothers and daughters have access to opportunity, economies grow and governance improves.”
The event also included remarks by Christy Turlington Burns, Anne Hathaway, and a special panel with young women who have participated in the program. I met some of these young women and they were remarkable. Their panel “A Conversation with Adolescent Girls” and “Increasing Economic Opportunity for Adolescent Girls and Young Women—The Agenda, the Challenge” was moderated by Emmanuel Jal, a Sudanese musician and former child soldier. Emmanuel then performed for the audience.
It was an honor to participate in the event because this World Bank program is truly making a difference and is right in line with the mission the of Council on Women and Girls.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls