Adolescent Pregnancy, Focus of World Population Day 2013

> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

Today, people around the world are celebrating World Population Day, a day that seeks to bring attention to the importance of population issues in the context of development. The focus of this year’s event is adolescent pregnancy, with the aim to catalyze progress in securing a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

There are currently roughly 600 million girls globally ages 10 to 19, 500 million of whom live in developing countries. Each year, 16 million teenage girls give birth, and an additional 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. Even though 90 percent of these teenagers giving birth are married, they still experience conditions contributing to challenging pregnancies: inadequate education, sexual coercion, violence, rights violations (including child- and forced-marriages), and gender inequality. In addition to lesser hardships that can come from unplanned or uninformed pregnancies, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 around the world.

The United Nations is calling for commitments from countries, communities, and individuals to support the provision of quality education for girls from primary school through adolescence, including age-appropriate, comprehensive education on sexuality and health. It’s been found that when a girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, have children later, have healthier children, and earn a higher income. The UN also emphasizes the necessity for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Other areas that demand examination are the legal systems surrounding marriage (including minimum marriage ages) and women’s rights.

As we have posted about previously (see here, here, and here), the low level of financial inclusion among youth is a missed opportunity to contribute to their well-being. Starting youth out with financial services can be a good investment. A New America Foundation study suggests that instilling a habit of saving among youth sets them on a course for a lifetime of financial capability. According to Youth Economic Opportunities, girls who are less financially dependent are at lower risk for negative effects of early pregnancy and child bearing. In a recent World Bank paper on gender equality and development, it was found that lack of agency (that is, a person’s capability to advance goals she values) is a key factor driving poor reproductive health outcomes among women generally. For example, women in Bangladesh who had more decision-making power were more likely to access prenatal services and skilled birthing accommodations.

For more on World Population Day, visit the United Nations’ associated webpage. For more on financial inclusion among girls and youth, visit the Youth Economic Opportunities website.

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