Press Release

Unleash the Power of Adolescent Girls of the SDG Generation to Propel Progress for People, Planet, Says UNFPA

11 March 2016

UNITED NATIONS, New York—Despite advances in recent years, girls continue to suffer from discrimination and exclusion just because they are young and female, warned Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “For many girls,” added Dr. Osotimehin, “puberty marks an accelerating trajectory into inequality.” Investing in adolescent girls, he emphasized, can help boost their potential and achieve gender equality and progress for societies at large. 

Dr. Osotimehin made these strong appeals during a high-level event held today at the United Nations to discuss how investing in adolescent girls—especially in education and health, including sexual and reproductive health—will promote sustainable development for all of humanity. The event featured representatives of governments and international organizations, as well as experts and young people from around the world.

Many of the 600 million adolescent girls in the world face daily discrimination and rights violations. Too often, they are taken out of school, married off and pressured to bear children before they are ready, risking their health, their lives and their futures.

“When girls are free to define their lives and enjoy their rights, they not only enjoy better health and healthier children; they are also better able to contribute to national development as economic actors and entrepreneurs, helping their countries reap the demographic dividend and driving economic growth,” Dr. Osotimehin stated. 

Investments in the health, education and employment of young people, particularly adolescent girls, are among the most cost-effective development expenditures, experts say. An extra year of girls’ education can cut infant death by up to 10 per cent. Secondary education is singularly effective in delaying the age at which a young woman first gives birth, and each year of secondary schooling increases girls’ future wages by up to 20 per cent. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per cent of it into their families. 

By adopting the Sustainable Development Agenda at the United Nations last September, world leaders resolved to promote gender equality and empower women and girls. That includes by eliminating violence and harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“By prominently featuring girls’ rights in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community has responded enthusiastically to the evidence that investing in girls yields huge returns,” explained Dr. Osotimehin. The success of the new agenda, he added, “will be measured in how well we are collectively able to build a world in which girls have no limits on their aspirations for the future,” no matter where they are born.

For more information, please contact:
Omar Gharzeddine: Tel: +1 212 297 5028; gharzeddine@unfpa.org
Etienne Franca: Tel: +1 212 297 5208; franca@unfpa.org