Securing rights of adolescent girls is critical for achieving development goals
Parliamentarians convene to address accelerated action to fight gender discrimination and promote the well-being of adolescent girls
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 8 April 2009 – Parliamentarians are convening in Addis Ababa today to address the urgent need for accelerated progress in protecting the rights of adolescent girls and ending gender discrimination if development goals are to be met.
Parliamentarians attending the 120th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) will discuss the role they can play in securing the rights of adolescent girls to survival, health care, education, protection and participation.
"Addressing discrimination and promoting the well-being and empowerment of adolescent girls is not only a question of human rights and gender equality, it is also at the core of development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals," said IPU President Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, who is also Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia. "Gender-based discrimination permeates all of our societies, with no exception, and we need to address that as a matter of urgency. Among those most affected, though often forgotten and invisible, are adolescent girls. We need to make their plight visible."
Gender-based discrimination and gender inequalities – often passed on from generation to generation by cultural tradition and economic, social and political norms – have numerous harmful effects on adolescent girls. In many parts of the world the largest percentage of children out of school and of victims of physical, sexual, emotional abuse and economic exploitation are girls. Girls are more likely to be trafficked, to disappear or to die unknown.
Programs that promote schooling, livelihood skills, social assets, freedom from violence, positive health-seeking behaviours and better access to sexual and reproductive health education and services for adolescent girls will have ripple effects across different development goals. They will help reduce maternal mortality and associated child mortality (MDGs 4 and 5), reduce HIV infection (MDG 6), promote gender equality (MDG 3) and contribute to poverty reduction (MDG 1).
Dr. Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Director of Programs, said that a "safe, healthy, educated and economically empowered girl can meet the challenges of poverty and ignite progress. An educated and empowered girl will be better able to take care of herself and to contribute to her community and country both economically as an individual and as a potential mother. With the right opportunities, an adolescent girl will marry later, have fewer children, and invest almost 90 percent of her income back into her family. Investing in adolescent girls will not only benefit girls themselves, but society as a whole."
Despite the profound impact that educated, empowered adolescent girls can have on breaking the cycle of poverty, less than half a cent of every international development dollar is spent on them.
During a joint panel organised by the IPU and UNICEF and chaired by the first lady of Ethiopia, Ms. Azeb Mesfin, herself a member of parliament and Chair of the Social Affairs Committee, parliamentarians focused on three key ways they can improve the lives of adolescent girls. They are:
Parliamentarians also discussed how they can work within their own constituencies to ensure that the voices of girls are heard and to help build the life skills that will enable adolescent girls to participate in public life, including the economic life, of their countries.
Key to promoting the well-being of adolescent girls is reaching even the most marginalised among them – those who are socially excluded, unprotected and living in the most marginalised, forgotten families.
"We must reach out to all children who remain invisible to our efforts," Alipui said. "Reaching the most marginalised adolescent girls cannot always be done by doing more of the same; special efforts and increased investments need to be made to reach all adolescent girls with the protection and services they deserve."
NOTE TO EDITORS:
Ending Violence Against Women
Ministry of Health & UNICEF Report 2008
Women and Girls: Confronting HIV and AIDS in Malaysia, 2008. Read