Girl Summit DC 2016: A Focus on National Strategy, Social Norms and Substantive Research

October 28, 2016


How to Tackle FGM and Early Marriage—and Still Respect Culture: Podcast with President Joyce Banda and Kakenya Ntaiya

Girl Summit DC 2016: Keeping Our Promises to Adolescent Girls

For the third year running, CGD just co-hosted Girl Summit DC. Since 2014, the annual event has drawn together hundreds of researchers, practitioners, advocates, and government representatives to explore how to improve the lives of adolescent girls. These discussions have helped galvanize action from domestic and international policymakers. Again this year, we discussed solutions capable of affecting real change in girls’ lives—and opportunities for the next US administration to build upon its previous efforts and strengthen its commitment to girls in low- and middle-income countries.

Joyce Banda: “Initiations take place between ages seven and ten.”

Former president of Malawi and CGD distinguished visiting fellow Joyce Banda opened the discussion by urging listeners to think about the constraints facing girls even before they reach adolescence. She explained how the lives of girls and boys differ from an early age—and the harmful consequences of that reality. When households cater to boys first in nutrition, maternal care, and economic investment, girls are already left behind before they reach the classroom. President Banda called for the US government to create partnerships with leaders on the ground and increase efforts to better understand and combat harmful traditional practices and social norms:


We need context-specific, data-driven interventions.

Later, in keeping with the theme of this year’s International Day of the Girl (Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls), the panelists turned the conversation to persistent gender data gaps. Population Council’s Thoai Ngo pointed to rigorous data collection as a necessary part of reaching the most vulnerable girls and effectively scaling up grassroots programs to the national level. ICRW’s Suzanne Petroni explained the need for evidence-based, context-specific interventions that take into consideration the broader social constraints girls face:


Mary Beth Goodman: Advancing gender equality “isn’t charity—it is vital to our national security.”

During the second half of the summit, panelists provided strategic recommendations for the next presidential administration. This included the need for an executive order which would give the new adolescent girls strategy the full force of law. Further, developing robust, outcome-based indicators would ensure that this implementation be tracked properly and future policy be guided by rigorous evidence. The National Security Council’s Mary Beth Goodman explained that keeping girls and women on the presidential agenda is vital for integrated development and national security. Like the panelists before her, she also pointed to the need for better data:

To further national and global progress on improving the lives of girls, our efforts must be rooted in robust research and a commitment to keep girls at the center of the policy agenda. Most importantly, we must continue to devise and test innovative solutions that have a “whole-of-girl approach”: policies that account for girls' differentiated circumstances from birth to adulthood.

CGD is looking to build on this momentum as we gear up for our Second Annual Birdsall House Conference on Women: Beyond-Aid Approaches to Promoting Gender Equality. Join us on November 2nd and 3rd to continue the conversation. 

Girl Summit 2016 morning panel

Suzanne Petroni, Thoai Ngo, Doris Bartel, and Kakenya Ntaiya at the Girl Summit 2016



CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.