World Population Day
This year on World Population Day, the focus is on young people. From a 10-year-old girl to a young man of 24, their needs are different, their cultures diverse. Yet, all over the world, young people want to be heard and involved
They possess the ideas, determination and energy to accelerate effective action to reduce poverty and inequality. In every region, young people are taking action on HIV/AIDS and other issues that threaten their health, education and future opportunities.
Young people want to stay safe and healthy. They want a chance at a better future. About HIV prevention, they tell us: “Adults say we are too young to know; we say we are too young to die.” About family planning, young people tell us: “Men should share responsibility with women.” About sexual and reproductive health, they say: “Young people need this information. It shapes our lives and affects our future.”
Yet today, millions of young people are threatened by poverty, illiteracy, risks of pregnancy and childbirth, and HIV/AIDS. Today, more than 500 million people aged 15 to 24 live on less than $2 per day; 96 million young women in developing countries do not know how to read or write; and 14 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 become mothers every year. Every day, 6,000 young people are newly infected with HIV.
These challenges lie at the heart of goals set by world leaders to reduce poverty and improve health and well-being. It is clear that the Millennium Development Goals will not be met unless young people are actively involved in policymaking and programming, their voices are heard, their needs are met and their human rights are respected.
UNFPA champions young people’s rights to education, health and employment. We recognize that investments in young people promote social and economic growth. Key to these efforts are keeping girls in school, building life skills, delaying marriage and pregnancy until adulthood, and preventing HIV infection. Young people have the power to drive development forward.
On World Population Day, let us focus on young people and seek new ways to work side-by-side as partners in development. Although it is often said that young people are the future, it is also true that young people are the present and their leadership should be supported today. As a young peer educator said, “We are creating the future and it is great.”