Adolescent girls: the most powerful catalysts for change

"I want to be a scientist and make new discoveries. That is my wish." Poonam, 12, Maharashtra, India.

Maria Eitel is president of the Nike Foundation. Kathy Calvin is president and chief executive of the United Nations Foundation. This article was originally published by the Guardian.

Right now, governments and development leaders are discussing our planet, its people and our future. Poonam, an adolescent girl living in a village in rural India, already knows what she wants for hers.

These two things - a weighty global debate about development priorities and the dreams of a young girl - are not only related to each other but are, in fact, contingent. Our aspirations for poverty alleviation, improved health, economic acceleration and peace rely on whether or not Poonam has the opportunity to achieve her aspiration.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established by the United Nations in September 2000, will expire in less than 1,000 days. The MDGs mobilised significant energy, political will and financial commitments for unified development goals, from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to improving child survival and maternal health and establishing universal primary education.

While these targets still demand, and deserve, our attention and resources until 2015, their expiration leaves an unfinished agenda. The global discussion about the next set of priorities and goals presents, we believe, a profound opportunity: for Poonam, for everybody.

A community of champions for girls and women are gathering this week at the Women Deliver 2013 conference and we are joining them, to mobilise our community in support of (and to make the case for) adolescent girls.

Investing in and prioritising adolescent girls is not only the right thing to do, but a smart strategy as well. There are 250 million girls living in poverty. If we meet their basic needs and unleash their potential, we can break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

The Girl Declaration will define concise goals, such as improving health systems so they work better for adolescent girls and eradicating child marriage, genital mutilation and other harmful practices. Other recommended goals will include: giving adolescent girls equitable, quality education and learning; protecting their economic assets; and preventing all forms of violence against adolescent girls.

So, we are collecting the insights of adolescent girls and using them to develop a Girl Declaration. The Girl Declaration will represent the voice of adolescent girls throughout the world, and express their hopes and dreams for the post-2015 world.

Join us in our journey to embed girls in the post-2015 agenda by signing the Girl Declaration. Help us defend the needs of the world's adolescent girls and harness their potential. Help us to convey that Poonam's wish and our global development aims are one and the same.

That's our wish.

Read the full article by Maria Eitel and Kathy Calvin on the Guardian's adolescent girls hub

Follow the conversation live at Women Deliver on our Storify

Join the conversation on Twitter #girls2015

Read the recommended goals and principles of success for the Girl Declaration