Resident Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, Dr. Kim Eva Dickson, yesterday stated that recent research data revealed that 50 percent urban and 34 percent rural girls aged 10 to 14 years in Sierra Leone are living in households without their parents.
She made the above revelation at the launch of the State of the World Population Report, 2016 on the theme, “10: How their futures depend on this decisive age.’
Speaking during the ceremony, which took place at the British Council Hall, Tower Hill, in Freetown, Dr. Dickson said the launch of the report provides an important platform for UNFPA to discuss issues of population every year.
She said this year’s theme focuses on girls, noting that they chose those within age 10 because it marks the beginning of adolescence, which is a decisive age especially for girls.
“It is when a young child enters adolescence, and for millions of girls, the arrival of puberty marks the beginning of callousness and miss- opportunities. That is why we focus on girls age 10,” she said.
Dr. Dickson said the new issue in the report is the very first analysis of the relationship between the purported investing in the wellbeing of girls before puberty, adding that it was related to the success or failure of how they should invest in girls.
“We need to invest in girls and children because when we invest in a girl, we yield the returns later,” she said and added that there are about 60 million girls, age 10, constituting a significant number of the world’s population, and that 47,700 are being forced into early marriages on a daily basis.
She observed that 1 in 3 of girls around the world become mothers before 18 years, and that 40 percent of maternal mortality is mostly among teenagers.
The UNFPA resident representative said “we need the report to protect the girls from harmful practices as UNFPA remain committed to protecting the lives of the most marginalised girls, particularly those who are thrown out of school and subjected to traditional harmful practices. With this commitment, we at the UNFPA will be working with the government, United Nations Country team and the civil society to privatise investment in girls.
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UN Resident Coordinator, Sungil Saigal, thanked the government of Sierra Leone for the launch of the 2016 World Population report and commended UNFPA.
He said the theme does not only focus on the future of girls but help save the future of many and contribute to community development, describing the report as timely because the number of young people is far greater than ever before in human history, adding that without young people development cannot be achieved.
He said the girls are more vulnerable than boys, and that they are more disadvantage and need the support of their families to release their future.
“The 2016 report reminds us about the fundamental disadvantage and vulnerability facing girls the world over at age 10. When a girl exercises her rights, stay healthy, complete education, make informed decision, she, her community and the country win,” he maintained.
Deputy Financial Secretary, Daniel Komba, who represented the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, thanked UN agencies for the assistance they have been rendering to the country.
He said the theme for this year’s report should be the focus of everyone, as it is a global debate and efforts supporting girls age 10.
“Teenage girls face much greater risk of abuse and sexual exploitation, violence and forced marriage. In the humanitarian situation, one out of every five teenage girl is likely to be pregnant,” he said.
He continued that the theme was intended to highlight the special needs of girls within 10 years, as they grow into adolescence, noting that enough sensitisation was needed to draw the attention of authorities about the need to invest in girls age ten.
“Ensuring the health and wellbeing of teenagers and young people and creating educational opportunities are the fundamental necessities in reaching the development challenges of the 21st century,” he stressed.
By Regina Pratt
AllAfrica, 21 October 2016