The United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA in collaboration with the Government of Liberia has launched the State of the World Population 2016 Report, highlighting the enormous challenges facing girls, beginning at age 10 and onward.
The occasion, which was attended by students from various schools in the community, coincided with the launch of the Mineke Foundation Storytelling Project, a program that provides opportunities to young people from various communities to gather stories about themselves and share them with the world, using digital mobile communication.
The report records the world’s population at 7.6 billion with approximately 60 million 10-year-old girls whose future advancement depends on investing in their health, education and social protection, among others.
The Deputy Director for Coordination at the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) Mr. Johnson Q. Kei formally launched the report on Thursday, 20 October at the Gardnersville Town Hall in Barnesville, Montserrado County on the theme, “At 10: How Our Common Future Depends on a Girl at this Pivotal Age.”
The document highlights 10 facts about 10-year-old girls, noting that about 35 million of them live in countries with high levels gender inequality. It stresses that investments that empower 10-year-old girls can triple a girl’s lifetime income, increase a nation’s economic growth and lead to a cycle of healthier, better educated children.
“Education of girls is the world’s best investment, yet 61 million adolescent girls of primary school age are not in school today”, it reads and notes that each additional year of a girl’s schooling can translate into a 10 per cent increase in wages later in life.
It discloses that every day, an estimated 47,700 girls under 18 are married in developing countries, while every day, an estimated 47,700 girls under 18 are married in developing countries.
The report says 16 million girls between ages 6 and 11 will never start school, twice the number of boys, disclosing that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls worldwide, while suicide is the second-leading cause of death.
“An adolescent girl dies as a result of violence every 10 minutes. 10-year-old girls are subjected to countless abuses linked to gender inequality, like child marriage, female genital mutilation, forced or coerced sex, unintended pregnancy, or the denial of education.”
It says child marriage accounts for up to a third of girls who drop out of secondary school, which also imposes additional costs on society through greater population growth and lower wages for women.
UNFPA Country Representative to Liberia Dr. OluremiSogunro in remarks said the State of World Population Report 2016 shows that “our collective future depends on how we support today’s 60 million 10-year-old girls as they start their journey from adolescence to adulthood.”
He said today’s 10-year-old girl will be 25 when progress towards the United Nations’ new development agenda also commonly referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is tallied in 2030, and stressed, “That development agenda aims for inclusive, equitable development that leaves no one behind. That is why it’s not by coincidence that UNFPA chose to launch this “Youth Empowerment through Digital Storytelling” Project today at this venue in this community.”
Dr. Sogunro then presented a cartoon of brand new smartphones to the Team Coordinator of Mineke Foundation, Ms. BukolaAyoola to be used by students of the Foundation, saying “Through this partnership with Mineke Foundation, we want to empower adolescents including young girls to become active members of their communities who are aware of the issues affecting them, can identify with their less privileged peers and help voice their stories through the use of social media for action by the responsible stakeholders and decision makers at all levels.”
According to him, this project will not only increase the plight towards young people and their challenges but also empower those behind the smart phones to seek answers from leaders and those responsible for the well-being of young people in communities.
The UNFPA Country Representative said in some parts of the world, age 10 can be a time of exploration, rapidly expanding horizons and new possibilities, but in other parts of the world including Africa, it can be a time when barriers start appearing on the path to adulthood, limiting options, choices and opportunities. “This is especially true for girls.”
“When our girls reach age 10 and approach puberty, we often don’t see them as capable of anything they set their minds to, but as commodities that may be sold, traded for marriage, childbearing and sexual exploitation.
With early sexual onset often comes pregnancy, and with child pregnancy comes health risks and a curtailed education, undermining their prospects for jobs and self-sufficiency”, Dr. Sogunro concluded.
By Jonathan Browne