Approximately 16 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 give birth annually, making up 10% of births worldwide.In developing countries poverty has proven to be a primary cause and consequence of Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). 90% of the world’s youth population live in developing countries and one in four people is a youth between the ages of 15 – 19 years old. The equality gap is also highly observed at the social, economic and political level in developing countries. Poor women and girls are more likely to end up unemployed and uneducated. Gender inequality restricts their sexual and reproductive health rights.
In 2015, the world signed the sustainable development goals (SDGs) regrouping a set of targets to achieve by 2030. The first goal being “No poverty”; a concern that affects the world’s largest population, the youth and an intuitive result of weak SRHR for the youth affecting mostly girls. It is inevitable that young people must play a vital role as change makers to achieve SDGs by 2030. The World Health Organization and other UN actors agree that it is critical that sexuality education is provided at an early stage for adolescents especially in developing countries.
Girls of today are women of tomorrow. There is no sustainable development without adolescent girls’ empowerment on SHRH.
From a very young age, girls are thought to close their ears when it comes to topics of sex and sexuality. This lack of information leads to lack of access to services which only pushes back the agenda of SDG goal number 1 and 5 while repeating the cycle of poverty. Overlooking the importance of the adolescent girls in SRHR closes the door to SDG goal number 3 – Good health and wellbeing while affecting all other SDGs. Many adolescent girls face barriers to reproductive health information and quality care for women. In situations where information is available, girls still face difficulties accessing those services. Girls need access to comprehensive sexuality education in and out of school, quality care health services for women and to be empowered to know and exercise their sexual rights.
Unless adolescent girls’ rights to sexual and reproductive health are treated as urgent, it is more likely that the gap to gender equality will remain and the cycle of poverty is a never ending fight without putting adolescent girls, the women of tomorrow at the forefront.
“I therefore take a pledge to ensure that by 2020, I reach 10,000 adolescent girls with information on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights through SRHR activism, advocacy and training.” – Phonsina Archane. Republic of Congo.