Statement

Statement by UNFPA Representative Babatunde Ahonsi at the World Population Day Commemorations

11 July 2016

Distinguished Chairperson,  

Honourable Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism,

Honourable Minister in-charge of National Population Council,

Honourable Municipal Chief Executive,

Ag Executive Director National Population Council,

Colleagues from MMDAs,

Illustrious Teachers, Students and Pupils here present,

Distinguished Invited Guests,

Our Media Partners,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

World Population Day, 11 July was instituted in 1989 as a unique opportunity to give special focus to population issues and how they influence the overall development of countries.  Each year the theme is centred on an emerging population issue, ranging from poverty reduction to adolescent pregnancy. This year, in keeping with UNFPA’s focus on young people, particularly young girls, the theme of World Population Day 2016 is “Investing in Teenage Girls”. On this commemorative day the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA salutes the contributions of parents, teachers and all guardians who in one way or the other contributed to the upbringing of teenage girls across Ghana. 

Honourable Ministers,

The international community has committed to a new sustainable development agenda built on the principles of equity and human rights.  A central objective of the Sustainable Development Goals is to leave no one behind. Despite significant gains made in reducing poverty and improving opportunity and well-being for many people around the world, many still remain desperate for a chance of a better future,  Among those least reached by development initiatives are girls, particularly those in their formative teenage years. 

Therefore, Honourable Ministers UNFPA continues to advocate for Governments everywhere to invest in teenage girls in ways that empower them to make important life decisions and equip them to one day earn a living, engage in the affairs of their communities and be on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Without this investment countries such as Ghana will not be able to protect their health, including their sexual and reproductive health, to enable them to receive a quality education and to expand economic opportunities, including those for decent work. 

Dear Parents, Teachers and Religious Leaders,      

The problems that teenage girls are faced with today are many and interrelated. One problem invites another, then many more problems are manifested. 

It is expected that parents, teachers and other guardians should be well aware of these problems, and look for solutions to address these challenges in a manner that impacts positively on the teenage girls’ development.

UNFPA recognizes that the teenage years for some girls is a time of exploration, learning and increasing autonomy, but we also recognize that for many others, it is a time of increasing vulnerability and exclusion from rights and opportunities, or just plain discrimination. Therefore, the investment we make in their development now, especially in their formative years will determine what their contribution to the future of our nation and by extension the African Continent will be. 

In many countries, a girl who reaches puberty is deemed by her family and community as ready for marriage, pregnancy and childbirth. She may be married off and forced to leave school. Following such marriage, she may suffer a debilitating condition, such as fistula, from delivering a child before her body is ready for it. 

Evidence demonstrates that when a teenage girl has the power, the means and the information to make her own decisions in life, she is more likely to overcome obstacles that stand between her and a healthy, productive future. This will benefit her, her family and her community and her country.  When she has no say in decisions about her education, health, work or even marital status, she may never realize her full potential or become a positive force for transformation in her home, community and nation.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

UNFPA believes that there is simply no inclusive development without development for our young people, especially teenage girls. Addressing the aspirations and challenges of young people is therefore a priority for UNFPA. This involves reaching those who are marginalized by poverty, at risk for crime and violence, unemployed, has limited access to educational opportunities and comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health information and services.

UNFPA’s vision for young people is very straightforward: - “UNFPA envisions a world fit for adolescents and youth, one in which their rights are promoted and protected. A world in which teenage girls have optimal opportunities to develop to their full potential, to freely express themselves in a respectful manner and have their views respected, and to live free of poverty, discrimination and violence.” 

A teenage girl whose rights are respected and who is able to realize her full potential is a girl who is more likely to contribute to the economic and social progress of her community and nation.

Every teenage girl has the right to a safe and successful transition into adulthood and the right to embrace the opportunities that the future holds for them. UNFPA is committed to promoting and protecting these rights and to supporting teenage girls to determine their own destinies.

The Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said “The new development agenda calls on us to leave no one behind. To reach those furthest behind, leaders and communities must focus on and stand up for the human rights of the most marginalized teenage girls, particularly those who are poor, out of school, exploited, or subjected to harmful traditional practices, including child marriage. Marginalized girls are vulnerable to poor reproductive health and more likely to become mothers while still children themselves. They have a right to understand and control their own bodies and shape their own lives.”

The success of the new sustainable development agenda depends on how well we support and invest in teenage girls.

I wish Ghana a memorable commemoration.

 

Thank you.