Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity
In support of the second International Year of Youth, which began on 12 August 2010, UNICEF has dedicated the 2011 edition of its flagship report The State of the World’s Children to adolescence and the 1.2 billion adolescents in the world aged 10 to 19 years. They include the 5.47 million adolescents living in Malaysia, around one-fifth of the country’s population.
Titled “Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity”, the Report underscores adolescence as an age of opportunity for children, and a pivotal time for us to build on children's development in the first decade of life, to help them navigate risks, and to set them on the path to fulfilling their potential.
Adolescence is a challenging and vulnerable phase of life when children have to deal with profound physical, emotional, sexual and social changes. In addition, many adolescents face external challenges related to peer pressure, drugs, gangs, sexual exploitation, violence and in some cases, even natural disasters and emergencies.
Like young children, addolescents too have a right to protection and care as well as essential commodities and services.
In some contexts – particularly with regards to protection risks such as child marriage, commercial sexual exploitation and children in conflict with the law – adolescents, out of all children, may even have the greatest needs. Yet, it is precisely in these areas that investment and assistance are often lacking, sometimes due to political, cultural and societal sensitivities.
Only by adapting national policies and targeting adolescents with specific programs that grant them access to quality education and healthcare while protecting them from pervasive rights abuses can we sustain the global achievements we have made in the first decade of life.
Enabling all adolescents the opportunity to voice their opinions not only helps us to recognise their existence and worth, it can also help level inequalities and overcome discrimination, especially for adolescents with disabilities, girls or those living in rural areas.
Realising our commitments to adolescents – commitments underlying the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments –is not only the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do.
Newsline: SOWC 2011