When the world wakes up in 2030, I hope the vision for adolescent girls would be realized into tangibles. As a father of a seven year old girl child, I look forward to an era when my daughter, like the millions of girls worldwide her current age, would blossom into a world that embraces them with hope, promise and a future as they walk into adulthood.
Today, major gaps continue to exist in the areas of Health, Education, Unemployment, Political Participation, etc. Girls remain victims of institutionalized violence, human trafficking, rape, etc. There remains limited access to education, and structural barriers have prevented girls from attaining their full potentials. Other factors like early marriages and general societal neglect in many parts of today’s world have affected the dreams of girls worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, about 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 and about 1 million girls under 15 give birth every year—most in low- and middle-income countries. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second major cause of death for 15-19 year-old girls globally.
Every year, some 3 million girls aged 15 to 19 undergo unsafe abortions.
Babies born to adolescent mothers face a substantially higher risk of dying than those born to women aged 20 to 24. Adolescent pregnancy can also have negative social and economic effects on girls, their families and communities. Many girls who become pregnant have to drop out of school. A girl with little or no education has fewer skills and opportunities to find a job. This can also have an economic cost with a country losing out on the annual income a young woman would have earned over her lifetime, if she had not had an early pregnancy.
Access to education remains distant in some parts of the world, with some cultures denying girls’ rights to education. The Pakistani adolescent- Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai is an example of an adolescent girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because of her advocacy for girls’ education. There are millions of buried stories of other girls, like Malala, that never faced the dawn of day. Despite Global efforts, according to UNICEF, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in education systems throughout their lives. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest proportion of countries with gender parity: only two out of 35 countries. And South and West Asia has the widest gender gap in its out-of-school population – 80 per cent of its out-of-school girls are unlikely to ever start school compared to 16 per cent of its out-of-school boys.
Furthermore, many countries will still not have reached gender parity. If that trend continues, it means that millions of girls would lose out on the path to achieving quality education and thus remain lagging in the vision to self empowerment.
Women access to Political participation is often influenced by the education they receive as young girls. Women educational levels affect their participation in formal politics and their participation in other political activities. The educational gap between adolescent girls and their male counterparts affects their ability for political participation and formal engagements in the political discourse of their countries.
According to UNICEF, to date, millions of girls around the world are still being denied an education. Slow education progress for children today will have lifelong effects: Almost a quarter of young women aged 15-24 today (116 million) in developing countries have never completed primary school and so lack skills for work. Young women make up 58% of those not completing primary school. Two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female. The full power of the girl child can only be realized when access to health, education, employment, political participation, global leadership and respect for gender parity is assured. By the turn of the century in 2000, when the millennium development goals were adopted, most of today’s adolescent girls were babies. Today, our hands are full with millions of adolescent girls that would turn into adults by 2030. The road to that vision is faced with enormous challenges that need to be addressed. Four years after the UN adoption of the International Day of the Girl Child, the rest of the world looks forward to the dreams of the Sustainable Development Goals and the promise of the Girl Child.
I look forward to seeing my seven year old daughter and the millions of girls worldwide turn the curve in 2030 with the full power endowed by the adolescent era.
About The Author: Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Liberian writer and poet and lives in Monrovia. He can be reached at [email protected]