NEW YORK — Adolescent girls have often been missing in policy and programming. Yet many believe that their well-being the key to eliminating poverty, achieving social justice, stabilizing the population, and preventing foreseeable humanitarian crises.
UNFPA, along with five other UN organizations, issued a Joint Statement at a reception yesterday, to step up and intensify efforts to fulfill the human rights of marginalized adolescent girls. The statement, issued during the Commission on the Status of Women, sends a strong message that the UN and its partner organizations believe empowering adolescent girls can bring about desired changes in the world.
“The issue facing adolescent girls is at the heart of our agenda,” said Thoraya Obaid, UNFPA’s executive director in opening remarks at the reception, which was organized by the UN Foundation and the UN Adolescent Girls Task Force, which UNFPA co-chairs with UNICEF. The other members of the task force include ILO, UNESCO, UNIFEM, and WHO. “We all know that lifting them up means greater peace in families and societies and prosperity and development for all,” Ms. Obaid added.
In many parts of the world for too many girls, adolescence is a time when “dreams dry up right before their eyes”, Ms. Obaid said. “They leave school too early; get married and have children while they are still children themselves. Too many experience violence and harmful practices. Too many suffer the devastating childbirth injury of fistula or HIV infection. And too many adolescent girls join the labour force under unsafe conditions, and without valuable skills.”
The Joint Statement was accompanied by the introduction of the “Girl Fund” which has been set up by the UN foundation to support the UN’s work on the ground.
Accelerating the rights of adolescent girls can break the cycle of poverty and gender discrimination, said UNICEF deputy director Saad Houry. “By working with governments and civil society we hope to make improvements in society at large. This is an effective approach. Both boys and girls are empowered agents for social change,” he added.
A representative from the International Labour Organization, said that they had jumped at the opportunity to endorse this initiative. “About two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population are girls,” said Jane Hodges, director “and this condemns them to a cycle of poverty.”
The Joint Statement issued says it will work with governments, civil society, communities and adolescent girls and boys to do the following:
1. Educate adolescent girls
2. Improve adolescent girls’ health
3. Keep them free from violence
4. Promote adolescent girl leaders
5. Count girls in data efforts so we can see and measure the difference being made in their lives