The United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director (ED) for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, is urging every stakeholder to allow their teenage girls to have the power to make their own decisions.
According to the specialized UN agency’s Executive Director, when a teenage girl has the power, the means and the information to make her own decisions in life, she is more likely to overcome obstacles that stand between her and a healthy, productive future. “This will benefit her, her family and her community,” he added in his Message for World Population Day 2016, which was celebrated on Monday, July 11 in the auditorium of the University of Liberia on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.
“When she has no say in decisions about her education, health, work or even marital status, she may never realize her full potential or become a positive force for transformation in her home, community and nation,” Dr. Osotimehin contended.
He also stated that in some parts of the world, a girl who reaches puberty is deemed by her family or community as ready for marriage, pregnancy and childbirth.
“She may be married off and forced to leave school. She may suffer a debilitating condition, such as fistula, from delivering a child before her body is ready for it. She may be denied her human rights,” sadly he added.
Dr. Osotimehin urged governments everywhere to invest in teenage girls, in ways that empower them to make important life decisions and equip them to one day earn a living, engage in the affairs of their communities and be on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
The international theme for the Day was, “Investing in teenage girls for a more just, stable and peaceful world,” with the national theme, “Investing in Teenage Girls.”
In his Message, too, the UN Secretary General, Ban ki-Moon, stated among other things that just when girls should be in school and imagining the possibilities ahead, too many are held back from pursuing their ambitions by social and cultural traps.
“While a boy’s options and opportunities tend to expand when he becomes an adolescent, those of a girl too often shrink. Half of all sexual assaults worldwide are committed against girls aged 15 or younger. In developing countries, one in three girls is married before she reaches 18. And teenage girls are less likely than teenage boys to start or finish secondary school.”
According the United Nations Secretary-General, rectifying these inequalities is critical for the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes the specific goals of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
At the national celebration, 16-year-old Satta Sheriff, a graduate of the St. Peter’s Lutheran School on 14th Street in Sinkor, stressed the need for the government and its partners to invest in the education of teenage girls.
She further stated that government must provide safe learning environments for teenage girls to help build up their foundations for the future.
She explained that women are being sexually harassed in most corners of the society and that gender-based violence also remains on the increase.
Satta informed the audience that some of the impediments blocking teenage girls from obtaining education in the country are early marriage, teenage pregnancy and harmful traditional practices.
As she called on the government to make good use of every international and local instrument for the benefit of teenagers, the St. Peter’s Lutheran High School graduate used the occasion to encourage her peers to see themselves as people with great potentials, which can lead them to achieving their dreams.
Also making remarks, UNDP Country Director, Dr. Kamil Kamalluddeen said the issue of investing in teenage girls is key to the betterment of every society. He stressed that more needs to be done in helping to protect the future of teenage girls in the country.
He used the occasion to urge relevant government authorities to work along with their partners to ensure that the educational foundation is well improved.
Dr. Oluremi Sogunro, UNFPA-Liberia Country Representative, spoke about the need to prioritize the education and empowerment of teenage girls.
Dr. stressed that there is so much emphasis on the boy child thereby making the girl child to lag behind in terms of education and empowerment.
“If we say we want to invest in girls’ education, we must do it. They are the pillars of the nation. When you educate a girl child, you educate a whole nation; therefore, we must do all we can to invest in them,” he added.
Dr. Sogunro emphasized that while it is good to craft instruments intended for girls’ education, implementation of those documents must be key. He used the occasion to assure the audience of UNFPA’s continuous support to programs and activities geared toward girls’ education and empowerment.