WASHINGTON, D.C.— Building on its ongoing work to promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, will invest an additional $20 million over the next five years to reach the most marginalized adolescent girls in 12 countries with high rates of child marriage. The countries to be focused on include Guatemala, India, Niger and Zambia.
The announcement was made today by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin at a State Department event held to mark the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. Dr. Osotimehin was in Washington for a high-level policy briefing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton where announcements were also made by the Ford Foundation and other organizations.
“This investment will allow UNFPA to deliver more systematic and integrated programmes at scale to support married and unmarried girls aged 10-18 years that are at risk of dropping out of school, child marriage, and adolescent pregnancy,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “Investing in young girls is a smart investment, and UNFPA is committed to supporting vulnerable girls to expand their life choices, protect their rights, and help them contribute to their own as well as their communities’ development.”
UNFPA will continue its longstanding partnership with The Population Council and in collaboration with governments, communities and others, will work with thousands of the most vulnerable girls in poor and under-reached communities to provide them with safe and supportive networks to advance their education and life skills, prevent pregnancy, protect them from HIV and violence, and improve their economic skills to help access better opportunities.
In the 12 targeted countries, UNFPA will work with:
- Very young girls – aged 10 to 12 years – to help them stay in school, gain financial literacy skills, and transition to secondary education;
- Adolescent girls – aged 13 to 15 years – to deal with increasing family pressures for earning through improving their financial literacy and economic and life skills; and
- Older girls – aged 16 to 18 years – that are both married and unmarried to support leadership development, mentoring and exercising their human rights.
These investments in adolescent girls will contribute to:
- Delaying the age of marriage amongst girls
- Preventing pregnancy and HIV and sexually transmitted infections;
- Encouraging girls to stay in school;
- Improving girls’ understanding about violence and safe sex options and their ability to negotiate safe practices;
- Improving girls’ integration into social networks; and
- Advancing girls’ knowledge and ability to access local resources and services.
In addition to this announcement, UNFPA will mark the International Day of the Girl with the release of a new report “Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage”. The report, to be launched at a press conference in New York on Thursday, 11 October, is a clarion call to decision makers to sharpen their focus on the urgent protection of girls’ human rights and to end child marriage now.
“Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “A girl who is married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled. Since many parents and communities also want the very best for their daughters, we must work together to end child marriage.”
UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.