December 8, 2016.
Ten is the critical age for girls in the developing world, according to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) 2016 State of the World Population Report.
This shows that the life trajectory of ten-year-old girls will be the ultimate test of the success or failure of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, chief among them eliminating extreme poverty, guaranteeing complete primary and secondary school education, and ending discrimination while eliminating harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.
UNFPA’s report notes that more than half of the 60 million 10-year-old girls living in the world today live in countries with the worst gender inequality, and that as they reach puberty they are suddenly seen as “commodities.” Girls are often:
- pulled out of school and subjected to child labour more readily than boys;
- bought, sold or traded;
- forced to marry and bear children, and “begin a lifetime of servitude.”
In short, ten is the age when “Practices that harm girls and violate their human rights…prevent them from realizing their full potential as adults and from contributing to the economic and social progress of their communities and nations.”
Barriers to Wellness
The harm done by these practices is compounded by a lack of access to sexual health and education, taboos on family planning, contraceptive use, and the unavailability of these either through lack of resources or funding. Together, these exacerbate the problems of unwanted children and rapid population growth, especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world.
Fighting for gender equality by ensuring access to education, contraception and family planning services remain the best and most effective ways of providing these girls with the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and desires for their future and, ultimately, to help reduce the rate of poulation growth.
Other Advantages of Education
Each year of education delivers an additional 11.7% increase in wages in later life for girls (compared with 9.6% for men). If all 10-year-old girls in poorer countries completed secondary education, it would yield a $21 billion annual dividend. In some countries this could translate into individual earnings increasing by half by 2030. It is a known fact that the longer a girl stays in school, the older she is at her first pregnancy and the fewer children she has over her lifetime.
Governments, NGOs and multilateral organizations must therefore make investments in girls an urgent priority. It is in the best interests of girls the world over, and the planet as a whole, to do so.
Contact: Madeline Weld, PhD President, Population Institute Canada