*By Essete Fithaamlak

Adolescence is a season filled with challenges for a girl. It brings with it significant physical, mental, emotional and social changes. It marks the beginning of her journey in decision-making and her awareness of the intersecting personal, social and political concerns that affect her and her community. While adolescence is a time of tremendous potential and growth, it also presents considerable risks. Undoubtedly, a girl's social context exerts powerful influence on her future and her community's future. We are presented with a huge opportunity by investing in the adolescent girl to unleash her potential and, ultimately, transform the world she lives in.

Over the last decade, we've achieved remarkable progress in improving the adolescent girl's chances of bettering her and her community's future. Early childhood interventions such as adopting strategies to lower child mortality rates and increased access to primary education have supported this rise. Moreover, concerted efforts have been made to end child marriages in the grassroots and political spheres. Amazing progress indeed, but we need more if we truly wish to transform our world through the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We must holistically invest in adolescent girls by increasing access to secondary and tertiary education, nurturing their talents, and starting even younger.

How can we do this?

One strategy that has proven effective is by providing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Education to reduce adolescent pregnancies and disease, and prioritizing the end of early marriage. We are ready for adolescent pregnancies (11% of births worldwide) to be a thing of the past.

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How can we do this? By providing access to quality education and for communities to prioritize the retention of girls in school. And then, once she is in school, making sure that she has equal access to technology, leadership development and SRHR education. Schools must nurture her talent and encourage her to discover and unlock her power and potential. Africa needs the empowered adolescent girl to be the change that Africa seeks. Included in such changes are contributions across sectors and the continent in research and development, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and entrepreneurship.

Through the Youngchange Makers Program, Akili Dada demonstrates the power of the adolescent girl. We plan to continue to play our part by empowering, mentoring and training girls to become decision makers and leaders starting in their own communities. In 2014 alone, 49 of our scholars collectively impacted 20,000 community members through their community service and social change initiatives. Additionally, 100% of our alumnae in the graduating class of 2014 qualified for University with a majority acquiring full MasterCard scholarships to Ashesi University in Ghana. These girls (now young women) from underprivileged backgrounds, accessed a comprehensive scholarship, mentorship and leadership development curriculum that facilitates all-round learning. As we celebrate this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, we recognize there’s so much more that can be done and invite you to partner with us to invest in girls and young women.

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