Call to in­vest in teenage girls’ fu­ture

Lesotho Times - - News - Lim­pho Sello

THE gov­ern­ment has been urged to in­vest in teenage girls by pro­mot­ing their ed­u­ca­tion, health, and em­ploy­ment for na­tional de­vel­op­ment.

Ad­dress­ing World Pop­u­la­tion Day com­mem­o­ra­tions in Bo­bete, Thaba-tseka on Mon­day, United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Fund (UNFPA) Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Le­sotho, Therese Zeba, said 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.

World Pop­u­la­tion day is ob­served on 11 July an­nu­ally to raise aware­ness on global pop­u­la­tion is­sues. This year, the com­mem­o­ra­tions were held un­der the theme “In­vest­ing in Teenage Girls”.

She said the teenage years should be a time of ex­plo­ration, learn­ing and in­creas­ing au­ton­omy for girls.

“But for many, it is a time of in­creas­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity and ex­clu­sion from rights and op­por­tu­ni­ties, or just plain dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

Ms Zeba said when a teenage girl had the power, means and in­for­ma­tion to make her own life de­ci­sions, she was more likely to over­come the ob­sta­cles that stand be­tween her and a healthy and pro­duc­tive fu­ture.

“When she has no say in de­ci­sions about her ed­u­ca­tion, health, work or even mar­i­tal sta­tus, she may never re­alise her full po­ten­tial or be­come a pos­i­tive force for trans­for­ma­tion in her home, com­mu­nity and na­tion,” the UNFPA rep­re­sen­ta­tive said.

“In some parts of the world, a girl who reaches pu­berty is deemed by her family or com­mu­nity as ready for mar­riage, preg­nancy and child­birth.

“She may be mar­ried off and forced to leave school. She may suf­fer a de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion, such as fis­tula, from de­liv­er­ing a child be­fore her body is ready for it.”

Ms Zeba said the gov­ern­ment should in­vest in teenage girls’ ed­u­ca­tion and health.

“Gov­ern­ments ev­ery­where need 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,” she said.

“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.

In his re­marks, De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning Min­is­ter Mokoto Hloaele said the preg­nancy rate among ado­les­cents in Le­sotho was 22.8 per­cent, while the HIV preva­lence rate was 5.4 per­cent.

The HIV preva­lence rate for ado­les­cent boys was 4.8 per­cent.

He said the gov­ern­ment had im­ple­mented var­i­ous strate­gies to im­prove the plight of teenage girls such as the Ado­les­cent Health Pol­icy, Ado­les­cent Health Stan­dards, Na­tional Train­ing Man­u­als for Ado­les­cents and Ado­les­cent Health Guide­lines.

“The gov­ern­ment has also in­tro­duced the Ado­les­cent Health Cor­ners in gov­ern­ment and church hos­pi­tals in var­i­ous dis­tricts which pro­vide sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health ser­vices,” Mr Hloaele added.

UNFPA Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Le­sotho Therese Zeba.

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