As African leaders converge on Washington, D.C. this week for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, economic development is at the top of their agenda.

And while their discussions are primarily focused around trade and energy, we know it’s hard for any country to develop without considering the needs of half of its population. That’s right—if leaders want to have a real conversation about potential, they need to be talking about and including women.ChildMarriagechart

While it’s true that Africa is home to six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, it is also home to countries with some of the highest rates of child marriage around the world. In the 50 African countries invited to the Summit, roughly one-third of girls are married before age 18.

Child marriage stifles girls’—and these countries’—potential,  by putting girls at increased risk of dangerous teen pregnancies, and hurting their chances of staying in school and participating in the work force. On the flip side, research has shown that when women and girls have equal access to education, economic opportunities, and rights, countries benefit from increased development and economic growth.

Contraception and reproductive health care are key to this growth, as they allow women and girls to improve their health, plan their families, and take control of their futures. Check out our media kit to learn more.