The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030

11 October 2015

Statement on the International Day of the Girl Child by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

Today, as we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, the world has an unprecedented opportunity to focus on the power of girls to drive progress and transform our world.

By prominently featuring girls’ rights in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last month, the international community has responded enthusiastically to the evidence that investing in girls yields huge returns.

The new agenda acknowledges that increased attention to the health and well-being of the world’s adolescent girls, including their sexual and reproductive health, is a necessary condition for success, and calls powerfully for a stronger focus on adolescent girls across sectors.

Despite advances in recent years, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantages, discrimination and exclusion, merely for being young and being female. For many girls, puberty marks an accelerating trajectory into inequality. It also represents a critical window for preventive and protective investments that we must make if we are serious about achieving full gender equality. 

Ensuring that girls are able to exercise their rights, can pursue their education and have the skills and opportunity to join the workforce is essential for their own well-being, and a critical foundation for the health and prosperity of families, communities and nations. These rights include choosing when and whom to marry, when or whether to have children, and being free of violence, abuse and exploitation.

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 a demographic dividend and driving economic growth. 

Going forward, we need to increase our efforts to end child marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices affecting girls. We need to give girls unfettered access to comprehensive sexuality education, remove laws that impede their access to information, services and choices, provide them with comprehensive health services, including contraceptive services, and most critically, keep them in school — whether they live in rural or urban areas, whether they are pregnant or not, whether they are married or single.

For UNFPA, the success of the 2030 Agenda, which calls on us to leave no one behind, will be measured by 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.
  • A world where adolescent girls have access to sexual and reproductive health information and services and possess the knowledge and confidence they need to make the right choices for a healthy life.
  • A world where every girl can enter freely into a productive adulthood because she is educated, healthy, free from sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, and not exposed to violence, unintended pregnancy or unsafe abortion.
  • A world where girls are treated with dignity and respect in equal measure with boys and where, regardless of their sex, young people’s human rights are promoted and respected.

UNFPA will continue to work with governments, the United Nations system and civil society to make this vision a reality.

We commit to the bold pledge of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind and to prioritize investment in girls as the smart choice for the health and prosperity of all our nations.

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