Adolescents and youth

Building assets and skills

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© UNICEF/BANA2014-01285/Paul
Bangladesh: Arjina, 14, studies while her mother, Josna, fans her. Arjina dreams of becoming a doctor.

What we do

UNICEF invests in programmes that improve adolescents’ education, critical thinking and emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as encouraging adolescents’ positive engagement with the world around them. Keeping students in school—especially girls and adolescents with disabilities—is one of UNICEF’s main goals, and it is committed to enhancing quality education with an emphasis on measurable learning outcomes.

UNICEF also supports programmes that offer alternative educational pathways for disadvantaged and excluded adolescents, as well as nurturing girls and boys as innovators, informed social actors, and peace-builders, including in emergencies and post-conflict settings. UNICEF supports initiatives that provide opportunities for the meaningful participation of adolescents in their families, communities, schools as well as informing national and international development agendas.

The empowerment of girls and women is a priority for UNICEF. This requires continued support and strengthening of programmes that explicitly address the influence of gender in social exclusion and poverty.

Why we do it

Investing in education and its results for adolescents and young people is perhaps the single most promising action toward ending extreme poverty during this decade. However, more than 70 million adolescents of early secondary age are out of school, with sub-Saharan Africa the most affected region.

There is a growing need to focus on adolescents' transition from primary to secondary school, which is often especially difficult in developing countries. Innovative non-formal learning opportunities, both in and out of schools, can help provide 21st century competencies and skills for gaining adequate employment.

Globally girls still lag behind boys in secondary school participation. Girls’ disadvantage is highest in least developed countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Girls’ secondary education is critical to their development and can help postpone early marriage and pregnancy that can have adverse effects on girls’ health, well-being and economic prospects.

Providing opportunities for adolescent girls and boys to participate in processes and decisions that affect them is one of the most effective ways to build their skills and confidence, and to improve their ability to communicate with others. Participation in social, economic, political and cultural debates not only contributes to civic engagement, it also improves adolescents’ ability to hold governments and other duty bearers to account. Adolescents can provide unique and invaluable contributions to their families, communities and wider society and must be supported in doing so.


 

 

Publications


Demand for Education Innovation
  - Adolescent and youth perspectives from the CEECIS Region

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