An NGO committee working for girls, with girls, at the United Nations

Girls at the Table

Effective Engagement of Girls in Political Processes

For over twenty years, the Working Group on Girls has advocated for the full realization of girls’ human rights at every stage of their lives. We recognize girls as experts on their own lives and we work to ensure girls’ voices and perspectives are heard and included in the work of the United Nations. As one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in society, girls play a critical role in the development of National Action Plans for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

How can you connect with girls? How do you ensure a diverse representation of girls? How do you find girls whose voices are often marginalized and bring them forward?

  • Connect with local NGOs and girl-centered organizations working with girls in the community. As professionals in the field, these organizations will prove invaluable to the engagement of girls. They can offer expertise, guidance, and support for effectively engaging girls in the development and implementation of National Action Plans.
  • Develop mechanisms and processes with local NGOS, CBOs and girl-centered organizations to connect with marginalized girls to bring them and their issues forward.
  • Establish systems and structures that support and make girl engagement accessible. This includes funding support, program scheduling that accounts for girls’ obligations to school, family, and community.
  • Remember not all girls are the same and one cannot speak for all. Ensure that you identify and include a variety of girls that represent the diversity of the community.

Once you’ve identified girls, how exactly do you engage girls in political processes? What does this work look like? And how can governments, NGOs and others work with girls to advance the SDGs?

  • Intergenerational work requires ‘blurring the boundaries’ between adults and girls; learning to engage with one another as peers and equals can take some time. When engaging girls in political processes try to avoid academic or policy-based jargon whenever possible. It is important for girls to feel like they can respond and contribute to the discussion at hand. Use everyday language to convey thoughts or questions, this allows girls to fully engage in the workshop, conversation, or activity at hand.
  • Learn to listen and resist the ‘adult as expert’ mentality. Intergenerational dialogue, when effective, breaks down the one-sided nature of adult – child interactions. Girls have their own unique perspectives and insights but we will never understand those ideas if we do not listen. Avoid giving girls advice or guidance when they are sharing their experiences instead ask questions for clarification, but do not talk over girls when they share their ideas.
  • Practice transformative approaches[1] to girls’ political engagement: encourage girls to identify issues of concern and think about how to address or resolve those issues as a group. Bringing girls to the table of political decision making requires that we partner with girls to strategize effective means for implementation; in order to do this well, girls must understand the processes in place as well as their role within it. Be clear about the expectations and outcomes of their engagement; it is difficult for girls to work effectively when their roles are unclear.
  • Create safe spaces for girls to share their stories and engage with political processes. Politics can often feel unsafe and uncomfortable for adolescent girls; look to NGOs and girl-centered organizations in the community for support, guidance and assistance in how best to foster safe girl engagement.

[1] See Taft, Jessica K. “Girlhood in Action: Contemporary U.S. Girls’ Organizations and the Public Sphere.” Girlhood Studies 3(2): 11-29.


Additional resources on girl engagement:

Advocates for Youth. 2002. Tips for Partnering with YouthTransitions.

Alaskan Native Youth: Youth on Board. “Organizational Assessment Checklist.” Sommerville, MA:

Bent, Emily. 2013. “The Boundaries of Girls’ Political Participation: A Critical Exploration of Girls’ Experiences as Delegates to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).” Global Studies of Childhood 3(2): 173-182.

Coalition for Adolescent Girls. 2015. Partners & Allies: Toolkit for Meaningful Adolescent Girl Engagement. CAH Booklet

—- 2014. “A Girl’s Eye View: A Literature Review on Girl Engagement.”

deFinney, Sandrina. 2014. “Under the Shadow of Empire: Indigenous Girls’ Presencing as Decolonizing Force.” Girlhood Studies 7(1): 8-26.

Lansdown, Gerison. 2001. “Promoting Children’s Participation in Democratic Decision-Making”. UNICEF Innocenti Insight.

Taft, Jessica K. 2014. “The Political Lives of Girls.” Sociology Compass 8(3): 259-267.

UNICEF. 2005. Adolescent and Youth Participation: Adults Get Ready!

UNICEF. 2006. Child and Youth Participation Resource Guide.

UNICEF. 2011. Inter-Parliamentary Union. A Handbook on Child Participation.





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