By: SHAFQAT ALI
ISLAMABAD – Girls are more likely to face forced marriages, child labour and otherundermining practices, said a UN report released here yesterday.
The United Nations Population Fund report said every day, an estimated 47,700 girls were married before they reached the age of 18.
It said 90 percent 10-year-old girls lived in developing countries, and one in five lives in a least developed country: one in five is in India, and one in eight in China.
Forced marriage, child labour, female genital mutilation and other practices undermining girls’ health and rights threatened the world’s ambitious development agenda, warned UNFPA, in ‘The State of World Population 2016.’ This year the theme of the report was – “10: How our common future depends on a girl at this pivotal age.”
Sharing the key findings of the report, Dr Hassan Mohtashami, Country Representative, UNFPA, said that in Pakistan, 35% of the total population was aged 0-14 years, out of which 2 million were 10-year old girls.
“The adolescent birth rate per 1000 women aged 15-19 of 44 also depicted this loss of potential,” he said.
Dr Mohtashami said the report showed that if Pakistan were to invest in 10-year old girls today, it had the potential to receive high individual returns with the potential income of each woman raising to $18,773 compared to the current $8,928, a significant increase which would have a far-reaching impact on the economy as well.
“Impeding a girl’s safe and healthy path through adolescence to a productive and autonomous adulthood is a violation of her rights,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin said.
“But it also takes a toll on her community and nation. Whenever a girl’s potential goes unrealized, we all lose,” he added.
The report said each year of education delivered an additional 11.7 percent uplift in wages in later life for girls – compared with 9.6 per cent for men.
“Yet, 16 million girls between 6 and 11 will never start school, twice the number of boys,” it said.
The UNFPA said if all the 10-year-old girls who were dropped out of school or did not attend school in developing countries completed secondary education, they would trigger a $21 billion annual dividend.
“Ten percent of 5-to-14 year-old girls do more than 28 hours of household chores per week, twice that of boys. Three in four girl labourers are unpaid,” said the report.
The report said practices that harm girls and violated their human rights—starting at age 10 prevent them from realizing their full potential as adults and from contributing to the economic and social progress of their communities and nations.
“Without their contribution, the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and its accompanying 17 Sustainable Development Goals may never be achieved,” the Fund said.
It said, 10 was a pivotal age for girls everywhere, as puberty approaches. “In some parts of the world, a girl at this age enjoyed limitless possibilities and begins making choices that will influence her education and, later, her work life. But in other parts, a girl who goes through puberty is suddenly seen as a commodity that may be bought, sold or traded, the UNFPA report shows. She may be forced to marry, pulled out of school and expected to start bearing children and begin a lifetime of servitude,” it added.
The new development agenda, endorsed by world leaders in 2015, was the blueprint for countries’ social and economic progress for 15 years. It aims for equitable development that leaves no one behind. Removing the barriers that hold 10-year-old girls back today will increase the chances that the agenda will be a success, the report argues.
The State of World Population report noted that of the 125 million 10-year-olds today, 60 million were girls who are systematically disadvantaged at the global level as they move through adolescence into adulthood.
“Girls are less likely than boys to complete formal schooling at the secondary and university levels, are more likely to be in poorer physical and mental health, and will find it harder to get paid jobs,” it said.
The UNFPA said the range of proven policy options available to governments has grown over the past decade. “These include banning harmful practices, such as child marriage and providing cash transfers to parents of girls in poor households to help defray costs of schooling, and, thus keep girls in school longer. They also include providing life-skills training and age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education to girls approaching puberty,” the report said.
The challenge now, UNFPA’s State of World Population report said, was to scale up these interventions to reach more girls, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, by age 10.
“How we invest in and support 10-year-old girls today will determine what our world will look like in 2030,” Dr Osotimehin said. “With support from family, community and nation, and the full realization of her rights, a 10-year-old girl can thrive and help bring about the future we all want.”