Why we need to empower every girl across the globe


When I look at my 11-year-old daughter, I see nothing but potential, dreams, and opportunities. I can’t wait for her to experience all that life has to offer, and in turn, for her to give back to her community and world. When I think about all of these opportunities, a smile appears on my face, and I am simply grateful.

But I know that this is not the reality for every girl across the globe. I often pause and wonder: what about the young girls who do not have the same opportunities and support? The 62 million girls who are not in school today. The girls whose path to success is littered with landmines like early and forced marriage, unintended pregnancies, trafficking, violence and abuse, and sexually-transmitted diseases—such as HIV/AIDS. For these girls, dreams of becoming a doctor, teacher, artist, engineer, or scientist seem like a treacherous journey.LeilasDaughter

The work that I do at FUTURES hits close to home for me. And my hope is reignited when I think about the work our organization is doing to advance the rights of women and girls worldwide. I am energized when I see the impact of our work, knowing that it will help women and girls reach their full social, economic, and political potential. For me, Tuesday, March 16th 2016 was one of those moments. This was the day that Secretary of State John Kerry announced the launch of the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls (Strategy) at the Department of State, demonstrating the Administration’s commitment to place gender equality and the advancement of women and girls at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy.

“We know that empowering girls, keeping them free from violence, and providing them with an education is one of the best ways to ensure that societies thrive. By working together as a community of nations, we can build a world in which girls are not treated as property, chattel, or spoils of war, but rather as individuals with their own voice, talents, and freedom to realize their potential and contribute to our collective humanity.” –Secretary of State John Kerry

The Strategy aims to ensure that adolescent girls across the globe are educated, healthy, economically- and socially-empowered, and free from violence and discrimination. It underscores the belief that when women are allowed to reach their full potential, their meaningful contributions to the world will lead to global development, security, and prosperity. The strategy calls for a concerted, whole-of-government effort which will aim to promote girls’ rights and address the social norms that devalue girls, discourage their education, and perpetuate practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation or cutting.

In summary, the Strategy will advance five key objectives:

  • Enhancing girls’ access to quality education in safe environments;
  • Providing economic opportunities and incentives for girls and their families;
  • Empowering girls with information, skills, services, and support;
  • Mobilizing and educating communities to change harmful norms and practices;
  • and strengthening policy and legal frameworks and accountability.

The announcement is welcomed and applauded by hundreds of advocates, organizations, and leaders, including FUTURES. As an active and engaged member of the Girls Not Brides USA coalition, we worked alongside over 500 like-minded organizations and advocates to push for a strategy focused on preventing gender-based violence across the globe and helping girls succeed.

WhatGirlsNotBrides’s ahead? Now FUTURES and our member partners of Girls Not Brides will carefully examine the Strategy and provide feedback and continued dialogue with the Administration. There is so much more to be done, but this is a big step in the right direction.

When I think about the work that we do at FUTURES, I’m re-invigorated with hope for every girl across the globe. The creation of safe spaces to learn, grow, and dream will not only empower these girls—it will also allow them to contribute to our collective humanity. I am once again optimistic about the future, and all the potential it holds.