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The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis on an unprecedented scale, affecting lives and communities worldwide. As a result of the circumstances brought on by COVID-19, adolescent girls face a myriad of risks—ranging from an increased likelihood of exposure to violence and early marriage, to catastrophic learning, health and economic losses. Despite these concerns, girls’ unique needs have not been adequately prioritized in response plans and donor investments. In addition, information about girls’ experiences often remains hidden within existing data, obscuring the complexity and uniqueness of their situation.

As COVID-19 threatens to reverse important gains in adolescent outcomes while also widening existing disparities, it is crucial that donors, governments, and all stakeholders recognize the unique impact of the pandemic on adolescent girls, and invest in promising approaches to meet their most pressing needs. As part of this process, it is also necessary to ensure that girls have meaningful roles in shaping program, policy, and research initiatives to enable these efforts to be relevant and sustainable.

In light of these issues, this report draws upon available country data from CARE’s work as well as external sources in order to highlight the initial impact of the pandemic on the health, well-being and safety of adolescent girls as well as their access to, and involvement in, essential services. The report also provides examples of program innovations developed during the pandemic to profile the ways in which CARE’s work has been contextualized to address the unique needs of adolescent girls across sectors.

Importantly, this report seeks to amplify the perspectives of girls and highlight ways in which their voice, leadership and participation have been—and continue to be—crucial to both short-and-long-term response and recovery efforts. Finally, in order to inform future programming, policy development, research, and resource mobilization, this report provides recommendations for ways in which donors, practitioners, and other stakeholders can better identify and respond to the needs of girls in the midst of the crisis, with holistic, rights-based, and adolescent-centered initiatives. As findings suggest, although girls are facing unprecedented challenges, a range of innovative approaches have emerged to promote their resilience. Throughout the world, girls are leading the way in efforts to facilitate remote learning, share vital information, inform effective service provision, and engage in efforts to prevent and respond to violence. Adolescent-focused programming is also being tailored to support girls from diverse backgrounds—in order to build back more inclusively.

Taken cumulatively, this report highlights the powerful potential of adolescent girls—and of the critical importance of investing in them. When coupled with supportive community structures and necessary resources, girl-led action can be both impactful and cost-effective—within the context of COVID-19 and beyond.

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