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Young people are engines for progress

…says UNFPA head

October 1, 2015 By Regina Pratt

UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, and human rights activist and actress, Ashley Judd, said in a joint statement at the Social Good Summit in New York that young people are engines of progress, but noted that their future would be unfulfilled if they are not empowered.

They said there are about 1.8 million young people between the ages of 10 and 24, citing the latest State of World Population report.

Ms. Judd averred that the rights of young people are often undervalued and overlooked, as they are excluded from decision-making processes and opportunities.

The activist said the most vulnerable youths are adolescent girls who could be victims of child marriage and have little access to education.

She said pregnancy in adolescence girls often results to child marriage and that such increase their risk of early death and disability.

She cited Shreejana in Nepal, who married at age 14 and became a mother at 16.

“After UNFPA helped her in safe delivery, she has learnt about her rights and wants to make a difference. She promised to reach out to other girls in her village and prevent them from child marriage and adolescent pregnancy,” explained Judd.

Ms. Judd, who has worked with Population Services International (PSI) and other organisations, emphasised that reaching the age of adolescence will not only benefit girls but the larger society.

“As we know, for every additional year of secondary school a girl is able to attend, her earnings increase by 10 to 20 percent. These gains are shown to increase countries’ gross domestic product.

“Economic autonomy and independence also decrease their chance of becoming victims of gender-based violence and increase their efficacy and agency within the household. Access to family planning enables women to be equal partners,” Judd said.

The UNFPA Executive Director, on his part, noted that young people also need access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including health services, family planning, counseling and commodities.

“But this connection between family planning and the potential of young people, especially young women to contribute to their communities, is often lost on policymakers,” he said. “I don’t want us to go away from here thinking family planning is just about planning families, but it is about empowering women.”

“We have to make sure the opportunities are there for every person to get the right education, right access to health, exercise their rights, to be able to get a job, to have a livelihood, and meet their aspirations and potential in life,” Dr. Osotimehin said.

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