Today, 11th July 2016, African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD) joins the world to celebrate World Population Day, themed “Investing in Teenage Girls”.
This presents an opportunity to celebrate significant strides by governments, non-government and
efforts of ordinary people breaking through cultural barriers and strongholds opposed to educating teenage girls in Africa, and globally. It is also a time to reflect on how far we have come, through the years, as educated people, tasks undone and untouched, for the present teenage girl, girl infant, and the ones yet unborn.
Africa’s population of 1.2 billion is the fastest growing amongst the continents. Children under 15 years, amongst which a significant number are girls, is 41 percent of Africa’s populace. These growing figures are a compelling call-for-action towards an inevitable commensurate increase in housing, food production, health and education needs.
It has been said that if you want to change the world, you invest in teenage girls. In 2015 alone, UNFPA reportedly empowered over 11 million girls between the ages of 10 -19, who were otherwise helpless make informed choices about their health and lives. Empowering girls and young women through education is an investment that does yields better living standards for a woman and in turn her family, communities, countries and the world at large.
When girls should be in school, learning and shaping their future, it is rather telling that in our time as educated people, we should not sit back and watch social and cultural traps deny a teenage girl education because she is a girl. Half of the sexual assaults worldwide are committed against teenage girls and teenage girls are less likely than teenage boys to start or finish secondary school in developing countries. The spate of adolescent pregnancy, forced early marriages, semi literacy and other form of vices making them vulnerable to illness, injury and exploitation, to mention a few, is totally unacceptable.
We, therefore call on government, non-government, and the ordinary person everywhere, especially in Africa to overcome social traditions that are inimical to educating teenage girls. The investment in educating a teenage girl today is an investment in the future of a country.