Elizabeth Ayumpou Balang is a teacher at a nursery and primary school in Rumbek, a town in central South Sudan. It is her dream job, but it did not come easily. Like many girls in South Sudan, Ms. Balang was married, and became a mother, while just a teenager.
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"I want to be a doctor someday," said Shaina Macmac, 16, a senior at the WPU-Agricultural Science High School in Palawan, a southwestern province of the Philippines. "Aspirations in life drive young girls like me to push forward even though we face challenges every day."
NAMPULA CITY, Mozambique - "Some adolescent girls will leave school to marry for money," 21-year-old Edma told UNFPA. "Some are engaging in unsafe sexual behaviours, unaware of the risks and their rights." Edma sees these realities every day. And she has made it her mission to change things: She has become a mentor.
LUSAKA, Zambia - "I have seen girls become pregnant, become victims of violence and become HIV-positive, and I don't want to become one of those girls," said 13-year-old Lydia Mwelwa, a student at Kabulonga Basic School in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. "I'm happy they have taught us in school how we girls can protect ourselves," she added.
MAKONDE, Zimbabwe - Three years ago, Sibongile Majaura was on the cusp of dropping out of school, a misfortune all too familiar to girls in Zimbabwe. But she has defied the odds. With just a little investment and a lot of ingenuity, she was able to start a thriving business and return to school.
PUNJAB, India - "I am getting financial support for my education from the government, whereas my brother, who is studying in the same school as me, is not eligible for that," says Guneet*, an adolescent girl currently enrolled in seventh standard at a government school in Punjab, India, near the Pakistani border.
When Fati was 12-years old, her father removed her from school in Niamey and sent her to Nigeria to marry a 40-year-old man. A year later, she was hospitalized with injuries inflicted by her new husband.
On a hot summer day in December 2015, Khady, a quiet 19-year-old, approached a lively crowd of Senegalese youth gathered on a beach in Keur Massar, a development near Dakar.