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Girls Decide: Putting girls' sexual and reproductive health at the heart of development

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 16 Feb 2011 18:11 GMT
Author: International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

15 FEBRUARY 2011, LONDON: There is a growing global consensus that girls are central to global development. Yet issues relating to girls’ sexuality and their sexual and reproductive rights continue to be largely neglected.  Girls Decide, a new initiative from the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), highlights the importance of girls’ and young women’s sexual and reproductive lives for both individual and global development, and aims to ensure governments around the world to adopt policies that work for girls.

Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, including unsafe abortion, are the most common causes of death among adolescent girls. The Girls Decide initiative aims to reduce the risks related to girls’ pregnancy and to improve the health, well-being and development of girls and young women worldwide. Ensuring girls’ and young women have access to life-saving and life-enhancing SRH services and information is a human rights imperative and essential to tackle gender inequality and ill-health.

Girls Decide launches this week with six short films that share the stories of six girls from around the world and their journeys to make informed decisions about sex, pregnancy, abortion and relationships. The initiative will be launched at an event in London on 16 February attended by UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Stephen O’Brien, MP.

Stephen O’Brien, Minister for International Development, said: "One thousand women die everyday in pregnancy or childbirth. They die not from incurable disease or chronic illness but from conditions and complications that we have the power to prevent.

"That is why the Coalition Government has put women and girls at the heart of our development plans. Our plans will double the number of lives saved in pregnancy and childbirth in the world’s poorest countries by 2015.

"We will train more midwives to ensure women give birth safely, provide access to quality healthcare and make contraception more readily available to help unintended pregnancies.

"Empowering adolescent girls so they can make healthy choices is at the centre of Britain’s development work and we join with the IPPF in urging others to do the same - today."

Gill Greer, Director General of IPPF, said: “The world needs to do more for girls and young women. Girls and young women are powerful agents of change and pivotal for the development of communities and nations. However, around the world, girls are most affected by inequity and poverty. This is clearly seen in the neglected areas of girls’ sexuality and their sexual and reproductive rights. Withholding girls’ and young women’s right to decide and the means to act upon those decisions perpetuates inequality and ill-health”

“Young people account for forty per cent of IPPF’s 70 million health services each year, and the bottom line of IPPF’s work with young women and girls is that we are committed to their sexual rights and we are there to support them with their decisions, whatever their choice may be.”

Yet, with less than 2 cents of every dollar spent on international development directed specifically toward adolescent girls, greater mobilisation and sustained leadership is required to ensure that girls are recognized rights-holders and have expanded access to choices, opportunities, education, services and support. Such efforts will not only have positive impacts on girls and young women, but are also essential to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and other development priorities.

Check out Girls Decide films and more information




Editor’s Notes

Imagine a 16-year-old girl walking home…

Now imagine that she is pregnant and imagine all of the thoughts that must be going through her head. . . What if she doesn’t want to continue her pregnancy? What if she wants to keep her pregnancy? What if she is forced to keep her pregnancy or stop her pregnancy? What if she is unmarried? What if she wants to continue her studies? What if she is forced into marriage? What if she has been raped? What if she is living with HIV? What if she never wanted to get pregnant? What if...


THE FACTS

About 16 million girls aged 15 – 19 give birth each year, accounting for about 11% of births worldwide;
Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, including unsafe abortion, are the most common causes of death among adolescent girls;
About 2.5 million adolescents have unsafe abortions every year and account for 46% of deaths related to unsafe abortion worldwide;
Adolescents girls aged 10 – 19 account for 23% of the overall burden of disease due to pregnancy and childbirth worldwide;
In developing countries, more than 60 million women aged 20-24 were married or in a union before the age of 18;
2 million girls and young women are currently enslaved in the global sex trade;
It is estimated that 150 million young women under the age of 18 have been raped or subjected to sexual violence.

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