Dear Ban Ki-moon... Selling her body shouldn't be normal

The Girl Declaration is coming on 1 October and will be delivered to the UN on International Day of the Girl. Here's what girls in the DRC said when we asked them what should be in it

The Girl Declaration will give hundreds of girls in poverty the opportunity to talk about their hopes and dreams. We've asked organisations involved in the consultations to write open letters to UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, explaining the challenges that girls in the developing world face. 

Here, Josephine Rugambwa from Women For Women writes about the complex challenges facing the DRC's next generation of girls…

Dear Ban Ki-moon,

I want to tell you about a 16-year-old girl from the DRC called Esperance.

Esperance doesn't go to school. She dropped out four years ago because her family doesn't have enough money to pay the fees. She resorted to selling her body to bring in money, something she still does. She is currently three months pregnant.

I heard about Esperance when I was taking part in the Girl Effect's consultations for the Girl Declaration. We asked the girls to describe an average girl in their neighbourhood; to tell us what she thought about, felt and dealt with every day.

The girls described Esperance without emotion. These are the everyday issues and decisions many of them face.

Cycle of poverty

Education in the DRC comes at a price that many families can't afford. This sets off a vicious circle of girls who don't finish their secondary education and who then have less chance of finding work and becoming financially independent.

Without control of economic assets they cannot help their families to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Girls such as Esperance who are coerced into sex work face unwanted pregnancies and risk contracting sexually transmitted infections - potentially suffering long-term health problems as a result.

Agents of change

Girls in the DRC have lived through years of civil war, yet they remain full of aspirations and dreams. 

I see the challenges they face every day. We work with incredible local partners who invest in education and vocational training for vulnerable teenagers and teenage mothers.

One of these girls is Laba, who was captured by a rebel militia before escaping three years later. She was determined to finish high school and, with the support of one of our partners, she not only obtained her high school diploma but is also in college studying to become a lawyer.

"Girls in Congo face many challenges," says Laba. "But we also have determination and strength and nothing can hold us back if we have access to our rights."

Pursuing dreams

I am asking you, as secretary-general of the UN, to put girls like Esperance and Laba at the centre of the renewed Millennium Development Goals.

You must ensure they have the opportunity to finish their secondary education and are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to join the labour market as adults. They must also have access to the support - such as healthcare - that they are entitled to.

With the right support, girls like Esperance can become young women like Laba: educated, healthy and pursuing their dreams. 

Yours sincerely,


The Declaration has launched. Read it to find out the five goals that can create a better future for girls in DRC and end poverty for the world. 

Join the conversation on Twitter using #GirlDeclaration