Last week, UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund), IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) and the Inter-Agency Network for Youth Development held an insightful panel discussion outlining the importance of involving young people and especially young women in the orchestration and implementation of the MDGs.
The case for investing in young people has never been stronger: statistics show that youth make up 30% of the average national population and up to 50% in some countries. Evidence has shown national poverty levels can be reduced by devoting time, money, education, health provisions and resources to young people. Making the voices and well-being of women and young people a priority not only makes economic sense; it also helps to ensure the sustainability of the development effort.
The event highlighted the topic of reproductive health and the benefits of educating and empowering young people, especially girls, about their sexual and reproductive choices. Currently 11% of births worldwide are by girls of the age between 15-19, many of whom who have only had the opportunity of limited education. Horrifyingly, every 14 seconds a young person becomes HIV positive and every year 3 million girls are subjected to female genital mutilation, with many suffering adverse consequences long after.
By improving education services and tackling negative social attitudes, many of these statistics could be greatly reduced. It has already been well documented that the better educated a mother is, the greater chance her children have not only of surviving but of leading a better and more healthy life.
The panelists, who included UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid and Gill Greer; Director General of the IPPF, called on the international community to stop ignoring the 1.8 billion young who are the makers of tomorrow and to involve them in MDG discussions. This would help to ensure that legislation and provisions for the youth are not based on ideology or assumptions, but on evidence and reality.