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The Malawi government joined UNFPA country office to commemorate 2014 World Population Day on July 16 in the capital Lilongwe under the localized theme: "investing in young people: key to development." World Population Day was observed globally under the theme "investing in young people" on July 11.

UNFPA Malawi Acting Representative Dr. Rogaia Abdelrahim said at the commemorative event that Malawi has the highest youth population in Africa with 73 percent below the age of 29 years; 67 percent below the age of 25; 52 percent below the age of 18 years and that it has been argued that this trend will continue for the next 40 years.

"This youth population bulge can only be an opportunity if we invest adequately in the young people. Lessons from East Asia and China show that with good investment, increase in population can reap demographic dividends. We should be adopting the lessons from these places and see how we can localise them and work with them effectively," said Dr. Abdelrahim.

She said she knew she was speaking for many young people when she called on policy makers to pass and enforce the national law that may raise the age of marriage to 18.

"In 2009 the young people launched the stop early marriages campaign and they have been raising their voices in so many forums about this but they are still waiting for results.

I am pleading for a speedy re-examination of the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations bill which will put the age of marriage at 18. Scores of of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage, increasing the risks of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as death or disability due to childbirth. It is our role to protect them," said Dr. Abdelrahim.

She reaffirmed UNFPA's and the UN's full support to all efforts by government and all partners to promote young people's aspirations and to place young people at the very heart of national and global development efforts.

In his remarks, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Honourable Goodall Gondwe said young people hold a great potential as drivers of economic growth, through participation in labour and production and that as they enter adulthood, the support they receive from the community, government and other stakeholders will help shape their future and the future of the nation.

"I wish to take this opportunity to call upon all stakeholders to compliment Government efforts in promoting sustainable livelihood and reducing youth unemployment, by among others equipping the youth with entrepreneurial skills and loan facilities. We need to fully cooperate and reduce unplanned teen pregnancies, abortions, and early marriages. We need to be united and reduce Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV and AIDS, promote gender equality, reduce drug and substance abuse, and promote sports and positive cultural activities," said Honourable Gondwe.

The Principal Secretary for Finance, Economic Planning and Development Mr. Ted Sitima-wina said at the function that the commemoration provides an opportunity for Malawi to move together with the rest of the world in implementing population and development strategies on youth development as outlined in national and international frameworks namely Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (MGDS II) and International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), respectively.

"You may wish to note that several positive outcomes that lead to youth development have been achieved due to implementation of the above named frameworks, over the years. For instance, in provision of universal access to primary education especially for girls net enrolment in primary schools has improved from 78 percent to 85 percent. In a bid to economically empower the youth, Government established Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDEF) to enhance youth's access to enterprise development and financing," said Mr. Sitima-wina.

Young people displayed a number of perfomances at the commemorative event which included drama shows, song and dance. They spoke of the importance of investing in young people.