Adolescence is a crucial and defining stage in a girl’s life. However, girls around the world too often face unique risks of gender discrimination and gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual violence, human trafficking, forced marriage and sexual exploitation and abuse. This is particularly the case in humanitarian settings, where girls’ already-limited access to vital services and family and peer support networks are disrupted by crises and displacement. Despite this, humanitarian programmes and policies do not adequately address adolescent girls’ needs. Caught between childhood and adulthood, these girls are often not able or willing to access services designed for adult women or young girls.
Adolescent girls face intersecting risks of violence due to their relative lack of power because of both their gender, and their status as children or young people in a world dominated by men. GBV against adolescent girls is rooted in systemic gender inequality, which underpins violence and leads to girls experiencing violence and harmful social norms and practices (like child, early, and forced marriage) at higher rates than their male counterparts. Harmful social norms can also compound girls’ experience of violence, as some girls are considered “defiled” or “ruined” after rape.
This brief highlights research that examines the unique experience of adolescent girls by specifically exploring the types of gender-based violence and the drivers of this violence affecting this group within the context of South Sudan, where women and girls experience high levels of gender inequality and subordination. Key findings from this mixed-methods research can inform policymakers, UN agencies and donors as they identify and support programs that will effectively prevent and respond to violence against adolescent girls in conflict and humanitarian settings.