By Kelly Cronen, Amelda Zotter, and Marcela de Campos
World Population Day on July 11 reminds us to focus on population trends and discuss the most pertinent issues facing our population today. This year’s theme is “Investing in Teenage Girls,” and it serves to highlight the importance of empowering the largest generation of girls in history.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, there are 600 million adolescent girls in the world today with unique needs, challenges, and aspirations for the future. These teenage girls are an important subpopulation that represent tomorrow’s peacemakers, leaders, influencers, innovators, and change agents of our society. Despite the meaningful progress that has been made to date regarding girls’ empowerment, much remains to be done. Teenage girls continue to face many of the same challenges as in the past including low access to education, health services, and economic opportunities, as well as forced early marriages, gender-based violence, and more. Teenage girls from marginalized groups in particular encounter even more difficulties accessing services due to their low status in society.
We not only have a moral obligation to confront these barriers — investing in teenage girls also positively impacts a country’s economy and society’s well-being. Investing in their education more specifically is of paramount importance. By providing quality education for teenage girls, child marriages and mortality rates decrease. As the data shows, educated girls are more likely to get married later, live healthier lives, and take better care of their children. There are economic incentives as well. Educated teenage girls gain the necessary tools and skills for the job market, which can boost a country’s GDP. Building their professional experience and expertise also helps women to increase their representation in government and leadership positions.
If we aspire to achieve gender equality, and live in a more just and prosperous world, we need to invest in teenage girls’ education. Not only is it a smart investment — its outcome will ensure that the teenage girls will be more empowered and well-equipped to reinvest back in their families, communities, and countries. Today we renew our pledge to invest in teenage girls.
Kelly Cronen, Amelda Zotter, and Marcela de Campos manage Chemonics' Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Practice.