Call to invest in teenage girls’ future
THE government has been urged to invest in teenage girls by promoting their education, health, and employment for national development.
Addressing World Population Day commemorations in Bobete, Thaba-Tseka on Monday, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Lesotho, Therese Zeba, said every teenage girl has the right to a safe and successful transition into adulthood and the right to embrace the opportunities that the future holds for them.
World Population day is observed on 11 July annually to raise awareness on global population issues. This year, the commemorations were held under the theme “Investing in Teenage Girls”.
She said the teenage years should be a time of exploration, learning and increasing autonomy for girls.
“But for many, it is a time of increasing vulnerability and exclusion from rights and opportunities, or just plain discrimination.”
Ms Zeba said when a teenage girl had the power, means and information to make her own life decisions, she was more likely to overcome the obstacles that stand between her and a healthy and productive future.
“When she has no say in decisions about her education, health, work or even marital status, she may never realise her full potential or become a positive force for transformation in her home, community and nation,” the UNFPA representative said.
“In some parts of the world, a girl who reaches puberty is deemed by her family or community as ready for marriage, pregnancy and childbirth.
“She may be married off and forced to leave school. She may suffer a debilitating condition, such as fistula, from delivering a child before her body is ready for it.”
Ms Zeba said the government should invest in teenage girls’ education and health.
“Governments everywhere need to invest in teenage girls in ways that empower them to make important life decisions and equip them to one day earn a living, engage in the affairs of their communities and be on an equal footing with their male counterparts,” she said.
“A teenage girl whose rights are respected and who is able to realize her full potential is a girl who is more likely to contribute to the economic and social progress of her community and nation.
In his remarks, Development Planning Minister Mokoto Hloaele said the pregnancy rate among adolescents in Lesotho was 22.8 percent, while the HIV prevalence rate was 5.4 percent. The HIV prevalence rate for adolescent boys was 4.8 percent.
He said the government had implemented various strategies to improve the plight of teenage girls such as the Adolescent Health Policy, Adolescent Health Standards, National Training Manuals for Adolescents and Adolescent Health Guidelines.
“The government has also introduced the Adolescent Health Corners in government and church hospitals in various districts which provide sexual and reproductive health services,” Mr Hloaele added.