The transition to high school announced itself in the form of the middle school prom. Somewhere in that elusive moment between childhood and adulthood, my daughter floats in her too-short dress. Or, rather, in her Spandex underpants.
How can I do justice to the fact that every traumatized woman in the world is more than what has happened to her, more than the worst memory she has, if that memory is the most of what I know about her, and therefore the most of what I have to tell you about her?
This worldwide drive brought together several UN agencies, civil society organizations and donors to reduce new HIV infections among adolescents by at least 75% and increase HIV treatment to reach at least 80% of adolescents living with the virus.
This "awareness" of the perfect female body never left me. How could it? The female gender is heavily marketed. If you are born with a vagina your identity has been prepackaged for you. All you need to do is follow the instructions on the box.
We've seen what is most difficult to measure and most fundamental to change: the power a girl holds within herself. That power burns bright in amazingly brave girls as they challenge convention and open whole new horizons of change.
As in many public health emergencies, adolescent girls and young women are among the most marginalized and at-risk population during this crisis. In the face of this national disaster, the Let Girls Lead (LGL) network of organizations in Liberia is working to save families from Ebola.
Dress codes facilitate abuse, first by enforcing the notion that there is a "right" and a "wrong" way to dress, and that transgressers can and should be punished, and secondly by normalizing the punishment. There is no legitimate reason for this.
Adolescent pregnancy diminishes the life opportunities of girls everywhere, but the cost goes beyond the burden borne by the girls themselves. And that is why it is our collective responsibility to address this problem.
It's time to make a radical shift, to start seeing girls not as vulnerable or as a liability, but as potential leaders. It's time to see girls for who they are: the driving force of their generation, one poised to bring real social change.
They are great in number, these girls; they belong to an exploding population of youth worldwide -- the largest in history. And these girls are bubbling with untapped potential that will continue to be squashed unless we put them at the center of global development efforts in the coming decade.
Malala Yousafzai has brought an incredible amount of attention to the power of adolescent girls. As we celebrate Malala's courage, it is important to remember the 250 million girls around the world who lack safe access to education, healthcare or basic needs like food and shelter.
When a girl pursues a higher level of education, it can increase her wages and her ability to delay an early marriage. Migration can also expose girls to new ideas and norms and provide autonomy that would otherwise be inaccessible.
You see, we've always dreamed that one day, when we left our high school hallways, we'd be free of certain painful things like standardized tests, Chaucer, and...slut-shaming. You brought us back to a heartbreaking, frustrating reality.
In virtually every country in the world, there are disproportionate barriers for young people -- particularly young women -- when they seek contraception or access to information and commodities to practice safer sex. And this must stop.