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World Population Day 2016

Every year, 11th July is World Population Day. The 2016 WPD theme is ‘investing in teenage girls’. The theme has been selected considering that teenage girls around the world face more and greater challenges than their male counterparts.

In many countries, including Malawi, a girl who reaches puberty is deemed by her family and community as ready for marriage, pregnancy and childbirth. She may be married off and forced to leave school. She may suffer a debilitating condition from delivering a child before her body is ready for it. She may be denied her human rights and become victims of GBV. Such girls are also at risk of other maternal health complications including fistula.

It is obvious that without education, in poor health, and with little or no control over her own body, her future is derailed, and her potential may never be realized. The challenges and obstacles faced by a teenage girl multiply if she is a member of an ethnic minority, lives in a village and is from a poor household. Malawi’s teenage girl is also at a higher risk of HIV.

However, when a teenage girl has the power, the means and the information to make her own decisions in life, she is more likely to realize her full potential and become a positive force for change in her home, community and nation.

Policies and investments in education and health that empower teenage girls and create economic conditions that lead to jobs are particularly important in countries with large, emerging youth populations. Such countries stand to realize a demographic dividend, which has the potential to bolster and speed up economic growth