…UNFPA Executive Director
October 14, 2015
UNFPA executive director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said on International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October, that investing in girls would yield huge returns.
Speaking on the theme “Power of the Adolescent Girl, Vision for 2030”, Dr. Osotimehin noted that the world had an unprecedented opportunity to focus on the power of girls to drive progress and transformation.
“By prominently featuring girls’ rights in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last month, the international community has responded enthusiastically to the evidence that investing in girls yields huge returns,” he stressed.
The UNFPA executive director said the new agenda acknowledges that increased attention to the health and well-being of the world’s adolescent girls, including their sexual and reproductive health, was a necessary condition for success, and called for a stronger focus on adolescent girls across sectors.
He asserted that despite advances in recent years, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantages, discrimination and exclusion, merely for being young and female, adding that for many girls puberty marks an accelerating trajectory into inequality, which also represents a critical window for preventive and protective investments if the world was serious about achieving full gender equality.
“Ensuring that girls are able to exercise their rights, can pursue their education and have the skills and opportunity to join the workforce is essential for their own well-being, and a critical foundation for the health and prosperity of families, communities and nations,” he said, adding those rights include choosing when and whom to marry, when or whether to have children, and being free of violence, abuse and exploitation.
Dr. Osotimehin said girls should be free to define their lives and enjoy rights, not only enjoy better health and healthier children, but also be able to contribute to national development as economic actors and entrepreneurs, helping their countries reap a demographic dividend and driving economic growth.
In going forward, the UNFPA executive director noted that the world needed to increase efforts to end child marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices affecting girls, as girls deserve unfettered access to comprehensive sexuality education, while removal of laws that impede access to information, services and choices, provide them with comprehensive health services, including contraceptive services, and most critically, keep them in school.
The above, he maintained, should not stop girls, whether they lived in rural or urban areas, whether they were pregnant or not and whether they were married or single.