July 11, 2016 By Regina Pratt
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), has said that governments everywhere should invest in teenage girls.
In his statement on World Population Day, 11 July, 2016 themed “Investing in teenage girls” he urged that governments around the world invest in teenage girls in ways that empower them to make important life decisions and equip them to one day earn a living, engage in the affairs of their communities and be on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
He asserted that teenage years are for some girls a time of exploration, learning and increasing autonomy, while for many others it is a time of increasing vulnerability and exclusion from rights and opportunities, or just plain discrimination.
“When a teenage girl has the power, the means and the information to make her own decisions in life, she is more likely to overcome obstacles that stand between her and a healthy, productive futureand this will benefit her, her family and her community,” said Dr. Osotimehin.
The UNFPA executive director further said that when teenage girls have no say in decisions pertaining to their her education, health, work or even marital status, they might never realise their full potential of becoming positive force for transformation their homes, communities or nation.
Dr. Osotimehin noted that in some parts of the world, a girl who reaches puberty is deemed by her family or community as ready for marriage, pregnancy and childbirth and might be married off and forced to leave school, suffer a debilitating condition, such as fistula, from delivering a child before her body is ready, and also be denied her human rights.
He further said that a teenage girl whose rights are respected and who is able to realise her full potential is a girl who is more likely to contribute to the economic and social progress of her community and nation.
“Leaders and communities must focus on and stand up for the human rights of the most marginalized teenage girls, particularly those who are poor, out of school, exploited, or subjected to harmful traditional practices, including child marriage,” Dr. Osotimehin said, adding that marginalised girls were vulnerable to poor reproductive health and more likely to become mothers while still children themselves, as they have a right to understand and control their own bodies and shape their own lives.”