* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Continuing to overlook teenage girls is to no one's benefit - when we invest in girls we are building a better future for all of us
By Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver
I remember as if it was yesterday. The teenage years. Vulnerable years, formative years, transformative years. School, sport, music, work, accepting my changing body, getting my first period, discovering sex – and that the world was a big, big place. Years where I grew and grew up, and realized that life was full of choices and opportunities—as well as responsibilities. These were also the years I first realized that not all girls around the globe were as lucky as me, but that it did not necessarily have to be that way.
Fast-forward 30 years to today, where the theme of World Population Day, 11 July, is ‘Investing in Teenage Girls.’ Why? Because it still doesn’t happen, despite the need and the obvious advantages. Continuing to overlook teenage girls is to no one’s benefit. The choices and opportunities of young people will not only determine their own future, but will also drive progress towards a better future for all of us.
But what does investment in teenage girls mean and what concrete things do we need to invest in?
Does it mean providing girls with quality healthcare, including access to modern contraception, so they can decide if and when to become pregnant?
Does it mean ensuring that teenage girls have access to secondary education, in order to gain the skills to learn and earn, live their full potential, and contribute to their families and their societies?
Does it mean protecting girls from gender-based violence, including sexual abuse and assault, child marriage, and female genital mutilation?
Does it mean providing them financial literacy skills, access to a bank account, and a decent job when they are done studying – things that will foster economic independence?
The answer is yes. Yes, to all of the above. And each and every one of these actions is interconnected. How, for example, can we promote girls’ education if every two seconds, a girl under the age of 18 is forced into marriage? How can we make progress with girls’ secondary education if we do not address the fact that the lack of menstrual hygiene products is a leading cause for drop-out?
Recognizing these critical connections, Women Deliver and partners introduced Deliver for Good, a new global campaign that applies a gender lens to the Sustainable Development Goals and promotes 12 concrete and critical investments in girls and women that will power progress for all. What makes the campaign unique is that it focuses on the whole woman—not just her health needs, or her educational needs, or her rights. Deliver for Good seeks to connect the issues that impact girls’ and women’s lives through an integrated approach.
It will probably never be easy to be a teenage girl, no matter where in the world she lives. But as a global community, we can help make it easier by realizing that the face of the future is the face of a teenage girl and when we invest in every aspect of her, we are building a better future for all of us.
To learn more about the Deliver for Good campaign and sign the commitment to girls and women, please visit www.deliverforgood.org
To learn more about Women Deliver's Youth Program, please visit www.womendeliver.org/youth