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Nov 11, 2016

The World’s Population and Gender Equality Discussed in Report

According to the UNFPA, what the world looks like in fifteen years will depend on what we do today to help a ten-year-old girl realize her potential. In its 2016 report, the UNFPA notes that more than half of the world’s ten-year-old girls live in countries with high levels of gender inequality. This means that about thirty-five million girls are entering adolescence with a disadvantage and will face many challenges that boys will not encounter on their way to adulthood. The report outlines actions that must be taken if the world wants to meet the sustainable development goals. News Five’s Andrea Polanco attended today’s report launch and tells us about the reality for ten year old girls in Belize.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The United Nations Population Fund released the State of World Population Report 2016. The study looks at the lives of ten year old girls around the world – the challenges that they face on the path to adulthood – and what countries must do to ensure that girls get the support and investment that they need for development. Ten year old girls are used for this study because they represent a group at a critical time of development- the adolescent age. At this time in their life they are at risk of sexual exploitation, trafficking and child labour.

 

Tisa Grant

Tisa Grant, Liaison Officer, UNFPA

“One of the fundamental issues is gender equality. This is one of the issues that we have here in Belize, as well, even though we don’t necessarily share some of the challenges like other countries. Like, we have high enrolment in schools in general and particularly for our girls. The report talks a lot about having low enrolment for girls, but that is not in our case. One of the things that is particularly special about this report is that for the first time analysis has been done to look at the relationship between supporting and investing in girls or adolescence and what that would mean for achieving the sustainable development goals.”

 

Eckert Middleton

Eckert Middleton, Manager, SRH Unit DYS

“There are similarities, but there are big, huge differences. I think in Belize we have more opportunities for young girls than other countries. It is just that it is not being accessed all the time or a greater number of young people. But in terms of poverty it does affect young girls pretty much in the same way because opportunities are lacking in that area. Where young girls are trying to make ends meet and fall short of that.”

 

Tisa Grant

“What the report is basically saying though is not to wait until further down to pay attention to the fact that these needs start to manifest from as early as ten. That is an age when right before when a girl enters into puberty and she then becomes immediately at risk to be sold, traded, or trafficked, for marriage, for child-bearing, for sex, for free labour, all of these things.”

 

The UNFPA says that the investment and support of ten year old girls are critical for Belize to achieve the seventeen sustainable development goals by 2030 – including reduced inequalities, no poverty, gender equality and decent work and economic growth.

 

Tisa Grant

“If we do not invest in girls. If we do not invest in their human capital, we cannot confidently say that we are going to achieve those sustainable development goals. And this is why we chose the age of ten because by the time those goals should have been achieved all our ten years girls would be 25. By that point in time we would be able to see that certain risks have been averted, that they stayed in school, that they avoided adolescent pregnancy; that they are in the best of health, that they are productive members of society. So, if this investment is not made we cannot confidently say that we are on the path of achieving those seventeen goals.”

 

And to achieve that requires intensive, collaborative efforts, from the services, to law, to policies, investment and data.

 

Tisa Grant

“One of the take away messages is for our decision makers, and leaders to take into consideration what the report is saying and look at the local context and what that means for us here in Belize; in terms of child labour, access to education, access to health care. One of the things that UNFPA advocates for is access to sexual and reproductive health. As you know, the age of consent in Belize is sixteen but a young person is legally not able to access services before the age of eighteen. So, these are some of the gaps where we would like to have changes in laws to help create access as is necessary. Even the age of marriage, these are things we need to look at as a country.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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