Launch of UNFPA State of World Population Report 2013:
Motherhood in Childhood – Facing the challenge of adolescent pregnancy – OCTOBER 30, 2013
Every year 18 million adolescent girls give birth in developing countries – 90% of them are married. In developing countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19. The persistence of these problems calls for a transformative shift away from narrowly focused interventions that targeted at girls towards broad-based approaches that build girls’ human capital and focus on their agency to make decisions about their lives, according to the State of World Population 2013 report published today by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Launching the report at a press conference on Parliament Hill today, UNFPA representative Mr Bruce Campbell discussed the links between adolescent pregnancy and the estimated 39,000 girls that are married every day in violation of their basic human rights. According to Mr. Campbell, addressing these issues requires “building a gender-equitable society in which girls are empowered, educated, healthy and protected from child marriage, live in dignity and security and are able to make decisions about their futures and exercise their rights.”
The report indicates that adolescent pregnancy occurs as a result of combined factors including poverty, lack of access to education and sexual and reproductive health services and information, early and forced marriage, sexual violence, among others. Responding to these, Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan, Member of Parliament and Chair of the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, told reporters that one critical piece of the puzzle is ensuring “adolescents’ access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services as a human right and a concrete strategy through which we can provide them with better opportunities for success.”
Ms. Rachel Arinii Judhistari, Executive Coordinator of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, echoed this approach, also highlighting the added barriers preventing adolescent girls from realizing their human rights, “current systemic and policy barriers are detrimental for adolescent girls’ ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights and bodily integrity – or simply, the right to make choices about our bodies, our lives and our dreams.”
The report presents numerous policy and programmatic recommendations for comprehensively addressing the issue of adolescent pregnancy, many of which happen in early and forced marriages. Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Population and Development, congratulated the Government for its recent commitment to address the issue of early and forced marriage, but recognized that adolescents’ unmet need for contraception, information and services, in particular, remains significant. This unmet need results in the largest generation of adolescents in history being unable to full exercise their reproductive rights and prevent unintended pregnancies. According to Mr. Prasad, the Government has a way to go before considering itself a leader on these issues. “For example, despite the investment in the Muskoka Initiative, the government’s figures show that in FY 2011-2012 it spent about $6.9 million on family planning overseas – much less than the $17.8 million it spent in 2005” continued Mr. Prasad.
Motherhood in Childhood calls on all governments to fulfill their commitments and obligations to the largest generation of adolescent girls in history so that they may be empowered with greater choices to fulfil their full potential in shaping humanity’s future.
NOTES FOR EDITORS: