Adolescents –aged between 10 and 19 – are tomorrow’s leaders and change makers.
There are 340 million adolescents in South Asia, more than any other region in the world1. Despite the large demographic, adolescents in South Asia are still largely invisible and voiceless as right holders.
- At 45 percent, South Asia has the highest rates of child marriage globally2. This means South Asia has more child marriages than anywhere else in the world.
- More than 20.6 million adolescents in South Asia are not attending lower secondary school, of which 11.7 million are boys and 8.9 million are girls3.
- In South Asia, almost 1 in 5 girls have given birth by 18.4
- Over 40 percent of adolescent girls are under-weight in South Asia. This is the highest regional percentage in the world5.
- 45 percent of adolescents aged 15-19 in South Asia think a husband is justified in hitting his wife, for reasons as trivial as if the wife burns food while cooking6.
- Only 1 in 3 adolescents in South Asia have comprehensive knowledge of HIV7.
UNICEF recognizes adolescence as an age of vulnerability and opportunity. It is critical to listen and respond to the voices of young people to fulfil their rights, and to support them to successfully transition to productive adulthood.
At the global level, children and adolescent rights are at the heart of UNICEF’s mandate. The Strategic Plan (2018-2021) demonstrates an increased focus on health, nutrition, education, protection and participation of children during the second decade of life. The momentum around adolescent engagement and empowerment is central to the achievements of results across all areas of UNICEF’s work, particularly Goal 5 – “an equitable chance in life”, which highlights the criticality of “supporting young people and children as agents of change8.”
In South Asia, both the Regional Office and Country Offices of UNICEF have embedded adolescent programming as a key priority in their strategic programme documents.