When humanitarian crises strike, adolescent girls are especially disadvantaged — and they are displaced in greater numbers than ever before.
Even before emergencies displace families, social norms steer adolescent girls down a riskier path that frequently leads to exploitation, isolation, gender-based violence, or early pregnancy. Opportunities for adolescent girls are constricted, and their workloads increase. During displacement, these norms that perpetuate inequality and violence travel with them.
When crises displace adolescent girls from their homes, the most vulnerable are among the least likely to safely access services and among the most likely to experience violence. In many families, parents rely on coping strategies that isolate their daughters within their homes, shielding them not only from threats but also from friends and programs that could benefit them. Institutions, systems, and community cohesion that might have previously protected girls and supported their development are frayed or destroyed.
During the emergency response and into recovery, girls are forced to assume adult roles, but without the necessary information, skills, and networks. They are uniquely vulnerable to sexual violence, early marriage, and unsafe work activities — each individually a human rights violation.
In the rush to respond to overwhelming needs, humanitarian practice consistently fails to prioritize girls: to identify the most vulnerable, to link them to existing services, and to design tailored interventions associated with safe, healthy transitions into adulthood.