New Radio Series Captures Voices of the Next Generation

30 June 2010
Author: UNFPA
This young women from South Africa is one of the 15- years-old whose experience are captured in voices of the Next Generation. Photo:UN Radio.

NEW YORK — Being 15 years old – no longer a child but not quite an adult – is a challenge for girls everywhere. It’s a time when one’s body, emotions and capabilities are in flux, and when new tensions and demands often arise as girls become women.

For girls in the developing world – especially those who face poverty, illness, violence, pregnancy or sexual pressure – 15 can be an age when doors are opened – or closed – depending on the quality of services and support that is available. A new UN Radio series, entitled The Next Generation: Voices of 15-Year-Old Girls, capture the voices of teenage girls from three regions (Africa, Latin America and Europe), at this tender stage of life -- a time when health can be fostered or destroyed, when hopes can be nurtured or dashed, when sexual initiation can be delayed or coerced.

The series, developed with support from UNFPA and UNIFEM, explores the specific challenges they face in terms of getting a good education, maintaining their health, dealing with gender-based violence and coping with teenage pregnancy.

In their own words, the girls describe their problems and betrayals, as well as their hopes and their dreams. The subjects range from Svetlana (the Republic of Moldova), who cannot comprehend how her own family allowed her to be sold her into sexual slavery to Zildenis (Brazil) who wants nothing more than an Internet connection so she can learn more about what it happening in the world.

They include Rebecca (South Africa), who became pregnant before she even understood the facts of life, Janaina and Daniella (Brazil) who contracted HIV at birth. We also hear from girls who have been forced into child marriage, tricked in undergoing female genital mutilation and endured obstructed labour and obstetric fistula.
In short, the interviews capture the wide diversity of experiences faced by young girls in developing countries and the different ways they find to cope.

All of these girls were born around the time when the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing World Conference on Women reached landmark agreements on gender quality and women’s empowerment. They were 5 years old when the UN committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The radio series shows that the promises made to this young generation remain unfulfilled and is being launched in conjunction with the meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council as it takes up this very issue.

Addressing the health and rights of adolescent girls is critical to the success of development. About half of the 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 are girls. They face more social inequalities, health risks and gender discrimination than boys. And so much depends on whether they are able to thrive. Studies have shown time and again that investing in the education and wellbeing of girls is one of the best ways to improve lives of this and future generations as well as to encourage economic growth.

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