Around the world, more than 50 million girls who may not speak the same language, wear the same fashions, or chase the same dreams share one major milestone: They’re 16 years old in 2016.
TakePart traveled the globe to take you inside the lives of 16 teenage girls today, and to show you their similarities and differences across borders, cultures, and social strata. They’re approaching adulthood in a world where a woman earns 70 cents for every dollar a man earns, just 19 countries have a female head of state or government, and women are legally bound to obey their husbands in 10 countries.
You’ll meet Haiana, a Syrian refugee who fled death and destruction for an uncertain future in Germany, and Tolly, a budding designer in England who started a fashion blog at age 11. In Kentucky, Carli touts her small-town roots, while in Las Vegas, Savannah opens up about her mother’s drug addiction.
What most defines them—the past, the present, or the future? These young women are growing up under markedly different circumstances, but all are bound by the familiar ties of navigating adulthood, heartbreak, and just who it is they want to be.
Culture, Race and Stereotypes
Teenage crushes and the first bloom of love—at 16, these girls are exploring gender roles and what it means to become a woman. They are defining their sexuality and the types of relationships they want now and in the future. They are in the throes of making lifelong choices about who they are, how they love, and what they want.
While young relationships and heartbreak can be tough, many of these teens are focused on school and family instead of dating or are working to find the right balance of both.
One in three girls in developing countries marries before age 18.
Dating, Love and ...
Women make up two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate people.
Being well educated is a priority for all of the girls. Several have their sights set on traveling abroad for school and pursuing a variety of careers, from fashion to marine biology.
For others, simply accessing a proper education is a challenge. They live in cultures that push advanced schooling on their male peers, while girls are expected to stay at home. Worldwide, 31 million girls of primary school age are not enrolled in school. That deficit affects their professional potential: Globally, women earn 24 percent less than men.
Of course, it’s not all serious. No matter where they are in the world, being 16 still means being a teenager. The world feels brand-new, adult rules are perplexing, and even the most seemingly trivial things can become an obsession. But most importantly, it’s that wonderful chapter in life to be a goofball, binge on ice cream, text all day with your friends, and crush on Justin Bieber.
This Is 16
The Joy of 16