Wednesday, October 30, 2013

UN Population Fund: 95% of the 7.3 million births to women under 18 occur in developing world (2 million to girls under 14!)

"A girl who is pregnant at 14 is a girl whose rights have been violated and whose future is derailed," the fund's executive director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said in London.
The report looked at births to women under 18 worldwide, the underlying causes of teen pregnancy, and possible solutions to the problem, which the U.N. said is part of a vicious cycle of rights violations.
"Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant," said Osotimehin in the report. "The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl's control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care." (From CBS website, October 30, 2013, exerpted below)
"Adolescent pregnancy is the result of the absence of choices, and circumstances beyond a girl's control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care."
Here are a few notable events that have contributed to a change in the life of young girls in the last year, from The Plan website:

  1. October 9, 2012 - Malala Yousafzai is shot. The Pakistani schoolgirl was shot by Taliban gunmen while returning home from school, targeted because of her passionate crusade for girls’ education. Malala survives the malicious attack and becomes an even more powerful advocate for girls’ education.
  2. October 10, 2012 – Bullying takes the life of Amanda Todd. A teen from British Columbia commits suicide after years of bullying and physical abuse at school. Amanda’s tragic death draws attention to the rise of bullying across Canada, compelling the Canadian government to take action against bullying.
  3. October 11, 2012 – 1st Day of the Girl. Thanks to the leadership of Plan, the Canadian government and people like you, the world celebrates the first-ever International Day of the Girl, a day that highlights the particular needs and rights of girls, and provides an opportunity to advocate for greater action to enable girls to reach their full potential.
  4. December 16, 2012 – Young woman beaten and raped on a bus in New Delhi, India. The death of the 23-year-old victim instigates anti-rape protests and nation-wide debates about the treatment and rights of women and girls in India and around the world.
  5. April 24, 2013 – Garment factory collapses in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The collapse kills more than 1,100, with women making up over half of the victims. The disaster triggers international uproar, calling for the government to improve working conditions and equal compensation across the country.
  6. April 26, 2013 – Gender studies now part of Ontario curriculum. Canada’s Ontario Ministry of Education agrees to include gender studies in all high schools across Ontario. The new curriculum is introduced into classrooms, September 2013.
  7. July 12, 2013 – First youth takeover at the United Nations. and hundreds take part in the first-ever Youth Takeover at the United Nations General Assembly. The youth gather to discuss and create an action plan to support universal education for all children, especially girls.
  8. September 24, 2013 – Canadian teen wins top prize at global science fair. 15-year-old Ann Makosinski from Victoria, B.C. is awarded top prize at Google’s global science fair. Her winning project was a flashlight powered by body heat instead of batteries or electricity, and was inspired by her friend from the Philippines who failed school because she had no light to study after dark.
  9. September 27, 2013 – United Nations breakthrough on child marriage. For the first time in history, the UN Human Rights Council makes unanimous decision with support of more than 100 countries to adopt a resolution dedicated to the issue of child marriage. It’s the first step of many to end the harmful practice.
  10. October 10, 2013 – Jenn Heil reaches golden milestone. Because I am a Girl celebrated ambassador and Olympic champion reaches her fundraising goal of 1 million dollars for girls in the developing world.
However, the profound need for education for young girls around the world, cannot be overstated. And, as the conventional wisdom holds, "When you educate a young boy, you educate a young boy; when you educate a young girl, you educate a whole community!"
7.3 million pregnancies to young girls under fifteen is a number no reasonable and responsible citizen of any country can ignore. It is not only a tragedy for each of those individual lives, both mother and child; it is a tragedy and a growing one, for the planet. These are pregnancies that, with appropriate policies, actions, yes funds too, and collective and collaborative action can be prevented.
We need to bring pressure on governments around the world, to bring their money, their ideas, and their most insightful and creative professionals together to generate a comprehensive, workable, effective, funded and monitored program to provide young girls with the access to education, health care, employment when and where appropriate, birth control information, and alternatives that provide the needed motivation to divert this activity into different activities in those developing countries where the need is greatest.
And while that process is underway, we also need a global approach to feeding, clothing, education and providing health care for those millions of babies and their mothers, still adolescents who have already entered the global population. This is not a problem about which we can declare, "out of sight, out of mind!" It must be brought into our sight, into our full  consciousness and into our workplaces, our corporations and our governments. One might hope that we could include churches in that list, but much of the evidence of ecclesial work is readily overshadowed by the effective work of secular non-profits, who have no interest in prosletyzing, while "ministering" to a specific social need. There is no reason why every elementary and secondary school in Canada could not expand their "global reach" beyond "nets" and the prevention of malaria, into a literal and workable partnership with a school, with a classroom and even with a community in which a school is still missing. Canadian students need to know their colleagues in other parts of the world, where conditions are very different from those in our country. And, also, without patronizing, young children in developing countries would benefit from sharing their stories with Canadian students, and sharing resources mutually, when they are available.

From CBS website, October 30, 2013
Teen pregnancies in the developing world are declining, but more than 7 million girls under the age of 18 are still giving birth each year, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday.

 

The U.N. Population Fund expressed particular alarm about the dangers facing girls 14 or younger, who account for 2 million of the 7.3 million births to women under 18 in developing countries. According to the report, this group faces the gravest long-term social and health consequences from giving birth as teens, including higher rates for death during childbirth and the complication obstetric fistula, the development of a hole in the birth canal that can obstruct labor.

"A girl who is pregnant at 14 is a girl whose rights have been violated and whose future is derailed," the fund's executive director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said in London.

The report looked at births to women under 18 worldwide, the underlying causes of teen pregnancy, and possible solutions to the problem, which the U.N. said is part of a vicious cycle of rights violations.

"Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant," said Osotimehin in the report. "The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl's control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care."

The report said that high rates of adolescent pregnancies correspond with other social problems: "Early pregnancies reflect powerlessness, poverty and pressures - from partners, peers, families and communities. And in too many instances, they are the result of sexual violence or coercion."

The issue is most evident in the developing world -- with 95 percent of births to women under 18 occurring there. Ten percent of women ages 20-24 in the Middle East reported at least one birth before age 18, while 22 percent did in South Asia and 28 percent did in Western and Central Africa, the report says.

Every day, 20,000 girls below age 18 give birth in developing countries. Nine in 10 of these births occur within a marriage or a union - highlighting the scourge of child marriage.

Osotimehin noted a positive World Health Organization report saying that some countries have seen a rapid decline over the past decade in the percentage of women reporting birth before age 15 -- a trend attributed largely to a decrease in early and arranged marriages. But its overall tone set out the case for urgent action.

"The birth or pregnancy in one adolescent is unacceptable. One," Osotimehin told reporters in London. "Whether it's going up or down is not the issue - 7.3 million is huge."

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