Adolescents in South Asia
UNICEF is working to engage and empower the 350 million adolescents in South Asia to be the next generation of leaders and change makers.
South Asia is home to more adolescents – nearly 350 million – than any other region. At the crossroads between childhood and adulthood, adolescents typically face many changes and uncertainties in their lives. Despite the large young demographic, adolescents in South Asia are still largely invisible and voiceless. They have limited or no access to information and little say in decisions affecting their lives.
Despite the large young demographic, adolescents in South Asia are still largely invisible and voiceless.
In South Asia where family and community relationships tend to be hierarchical and patriarchal, girls and boys experience adolescence differently. Girls tend to face more limitations on their ability to move freely and to make decisions affecting their work, education, marriage and social relationships.
89 million adolescent girls are anaemic. Almost 1 in 2 girls in the region are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 5 give birth before they reach 18. Gender discrimination and social norms in the region expose girls to high risk of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, child domestic work, poor education and health, sexual abuse, exploitation and violence.
Adolescence is both a time of great opportunities and vulnerabilities. With adequate investments, adolescents have the potential to reach their full potential and become change makers. Currently, more than 20 million adolescents 10-14 years old are out of school and an overwhelming 45 per cent of adolescents believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for burning the meal she cooks for him. Without proper support, adolescents will not develop the required skills to become active citizens. Supporting them to successfully transition to adult roles and to contribute to building a more peaceful, prosperous, gender balance and equitable world is a priority for South Asia today.
Adolescents in South Asia need 21st century skills in order to gain a foothold in a region where jobs remain scarce, technology is evolving rapidly, and deep-rooted inequalities, restrictive gender norms and discrimination remain
UNICEF works with governments in South Asia to draft and adopt national plans and policies to meet the needs of adolescents, especially those who are the most vulnerable. We work with communities to ensure that our programs are relevant and built on local needs, resources and priorities. We use social transformation methods to empower adolescents to create change in their own lives and in the lives of others.
We encourage adolescent participation at the grassroots level where they are able to create a visible and immediate impact. We also make sure that parents, care givers and influencers at the community-level understand and support adolescent development. This helps create a support system for adolescents to become active and engaged individuals in their community.
We believe that our programmes are more effective if they are evidence-based and gender responsive. While girls remain the most vulnerable, we also engage with boys, brothers and fathers to ensure that both girls and boys can contribute to building a better society.
These resources represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the region. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.
- Adolescents and youth (UNICEF home page)
- Progress for Children: A report card on adolescents
- SParking Wellbeing
- Empowering Adolescents and Youth in Nepal as Partners in Innovation for Development
- Empowering Adolescents and Youth in Pakistan as Partners in Innovation for Development
- A Toolkit for Monitoring and Evaluating Children's Participation: Booklet 1, Introduction
- Statistics on Adolescents (Statistics related to Adolescence can be found throughout the publication. These same statistics can be found, organized by country, in the ‘Information by country' section of this website)
ASPIRE! Leadership for Planning and Decision-Making with Adolescents
ASPIRE! Leadership for Planning and Decision-Making with Adolescents is an online course tailored for decision-makers, policymakers, experts and other professionals working on policies and programmes related to adolescents and young people.
The course, developed by UNICEF, is a step towards encouraging active and meaningful participation of adolescents and young people and ensuring the voices and concerns of adolescents and young people are meaningfully represented in decisions, policies and programmes.
The online course is available for free on UNICEF’s AGORA learning platform.
Last update: December 2021