Unleashing the Power and Potential of Adolescent Girls

  • 02 March 2011

UNITED NATIONS, New York — UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, reaffirmed his commitment to adolescent and youth, especially girls, who, he said, are at the heart of UNFPA’s mandate. “They are the unexpected solution to many of the world’s most pressing problems,” said Dr. Osotimehin, “provided we join efforts to unleash their power and potential.”

Dr. Osotimehin renewed UNFPA’s commitment during a special gathering last week of more than 100 high-level representatives from governments, United Nations, the private sector, civil society, and youth organizations. The event, part of the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, was organized by the UN Adolescent Girls Task Force dedicated to encouraging investments and promoting the rights of adolescent girls.

“Investing in adolescent girls benefits everyone,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “When they flourish, their families and communities flourish as well. The benefits will go a long way in a girl’s lifetime, and for generations to come.”

Dr. Osotimehin was followed by UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, who said, “Investing in adolescent girls is one of the smartest investments any country can make, not only for accelerating progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, but social and economic development overall.” With the right support for their safe transition into adulthood, she added, “they can constitute the future engines of economic and social development and join the ranks of political leadership.”

Other speakers at the breakfast event included Hon. Sonia Escobedo, Secretaria Presidencial de la Mujer Guatemala, who highlighted the situation of adolescent girls in her country—where, she said, more than 60 per cent of the population is less than 30 years old—and her Government’s efforts to address their needs; Kathy (Bushkin) Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation, who presented their initiative, Girl Up, which allows American girls to support some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.

Richard Morgan, Director of the Division of Policy and Practice at UNICEF, highlighted the special needs of girls with disabilities; and Ms. Janet Zeenat Karim, head of the Malawi delegation to CSW noted that more than 73 per cent of her country’s population is under 29 years old. She expressed her Government’s appreciation of the support it is receiving from the UN to support comprehensive programmes for adolescent girls, many of whom face challenges such as child marriage, school dropout, vulnerability to HIV and early pregnancy.

The UN Adolescent Girls Task Force is co-chaired by UNFPA and UNICEF, in partnership with the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Women, World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“We are bringing the power of the UN together to make the case for 500 million adolescent girls in the developing world to live up to their full potential,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “This is why the UN Adolescent Girls Task Force exists.”

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