APPG on Women, Peace and Security: “Life in Limbo – adolescent girls in crisis and conflict”

This report was written by Poppy Kennedy, Policy, Advocacy and Research Assistant at Plan International UK.

A full version of the report, including a summary of the Q&A, is available as a PDF here.

On the week of World Refugee Day 2019, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women, Peace and Security partnered with Plan International UK, ActionAid UK, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS) to host a panel discussion on meeting the needs of adolescent girls in emergencies.

Chaired by:

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, Co-Chair of the APPG on Women, Peace and Security


Hussaini Abdu – Country Director, Plan International Nigeria
Daphne Jayasinghe – Acting Head of Policy, IRC
Farah Nazeer – Deputy Director of Advocacy, ActionAid UK

Baroness Hodgson’s introduction

– Adolescent girls face specific needs and vulnerability based on the intersection of their age and gender, interventions which fail to reflect their specific needs can have negative repercussions for the rest of their lives.
– Girls not being in school can lead to early marriages, early pregnancy which result in health complications exacerbating existing inequalities and intergenerational poverty.
– Currently more people are displaced people around the world than ever before, approximately 60 million. In times of crisis domestic violence soars and the rights of women are rolled back.
– For this reason, the women, peace and security agenda must respond to the current context of increasingly protracted crises and widespread displacement.

Hussaini Abdu – Country Director, Plan International Nigeria

– The context and major drivers of the conflict is rooted in a lack of access to formal education, particularly for girls.
– Education is often seen as just a ‘development issue’ and therefore is often not valued or prioritised during humanitarian responses. But this perception is no longer relevant to the global context which is seeing more and more protracted crises.
– 80% of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are not in camps but are living in host communities. The international community needs to change how we work in protracted crises to facilitate and incentivise education for girls within communities long-term.
– DFID is a major partner of Plan International Nigeria. DFID does value education and Plan International are working to ensure the UK will continue to be a driving positive force and invest more resources into responses specific to issues faced by adolescent girls.

Daphne Jayasinghe – Acting Head of Policy, IRC

– Currently, adolescent girls are caught between the gaps between child and adult services.
– As IRC’s research from South Sudan showed, conflict is a major driver of violence against women and girls (VAWG) as crisis often reinforce harmful gender norms. This research also child, early and forced marriage remains common in South Sudan.
– The policy environment is showing a willingness to act more on gender-based violence (GBV) but there are not enough policies that address adolescent girls specifically. There needs to be a dedicated government strategy for GBV on adolescent girls.
– There are huge shortfalls in GBV funding. To make an impact the UK Government needs to provide more long-term flexible funding.
– When designing programmes there is a need to consider that adolescent girls are not reporting violence and do not know where to report if they tried. This can be tackled by involving girls in the design and implementation of programmes and interventions.

Farah Nazeer – Deputy Director of Advocacy, ActionAid UK

– Adolescence should be a time for exploration and growth for girls, a time when they expand their educational horizons and relations outside of the family. Yet while this is true for boys we see that for girls this is a time where their world begins to contract.
– When there are power imbalances families and girls feel they cannot push back against harmful social norms in their communities leading to increased CEFM (child, early and forced marriage) and FGM.
– Central to ActionAid’s approach to humanitarian programming is shifting power to local leadership and building women’s leadership.
– It is important that more research into the impact of power imbalances takes place.

Read the briefing circulated at the event, with recommendations for the UK Government from Plan International UK, ActionAid UK, IRC and GAPS.

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