We the Future

For and with adolescents in South Asia

UNICEF ROSA/2016/Lemoyne

Why adolescents?

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.


What is #WeTheFuture?

We the Future is a campaign WITH adolescents in South Asia – providing opportunities for adolescents/young people in South Asia to communicate and advocate for their rights, concerns and needs, as well as explore issues that affect their lives. It aims to engage adolescents and strengthen their voices to access and speak about their rights.

We the Future is a campaign FOR adolescents in South Asia – reaching audiences of millions with key messages on issues affecting adolescents across South Asia. It aims to raise awareness about adolescents’ opportunities and challenges. It will advocate for their rights, concerns and need among parents, key influencers and decision makers for strengthened protection of and investments in adolescents’ rights fulfilment.

We the Future will reach millions with key messages on issues affecting adolescents across South Asia.


1 United Nations Children’s Fund, State of the World’s Children, 2017 
2 UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2015 [www.unicef.org/publications/files/SOWC_2015_Summary_and_Tables.pdf]. Note that this percentage refers to the women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.
3 UNESCO Institute for Statistics Data Centre, accessed June 2017, and UNPD Population estimates, 2015 revision.
4 UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2015 [www.unicef.org/publications/files/SOWC_2015_Summary_and_Tables.pdf]
5 Aguayo, Victor M; Paintal, Kajali. Nutrition in adolescent girls in South Asia, British Medical Journal; London Vol. 357, (April 11, 2017)
6 UNICEF, State of the World Children report, 2015
7 UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2015 [www.unicef.org/publications/files/SOWC_2015_Summary_and_Tables.pdf]
8 Adolescent and Youth Engagement Strategic Framework (AYESF)- UNICEF, 2016