West and Central Africa today is the home of the forgotten girl. She may be Fatima in Western Cameroon, who at 12 years old can be found hiding behind her mother, about to be forcibly married to a 22-year-old man. Or 15-year-old Umu, hiding her pregnancy so she can finish high school in Sierra Leone. Or 10-year-old Sanya in Northern Nigeria, waking with nightmares of her school being burned down by violent extremists. In the region, over 61 million adolescent girls continue to face unimaginable challenges to access their rights to safety, learning, health and well-being, which prevent them from developing their capabilities, accessing resources or unlocking skills and capacities that enable them to exercise strategic forms of agency and ultimately allow them to transition into improved livelihoods.
This data brief shows how adolescent girls in the region encounter multiple and over-lapping deprivations that put their rights and well-being (including health and education) at risk. Countries must urgently tackle the social norms and institutions that deny women and girls educational opportunities, constrain access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, and condone harmful practices such as child marriage.