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Invest in Girls, Says the United Nations

Khmer Times Share:
Educating girls remains the most powerful way to address global poverty. KT/Fabien Mouret

On October 9, 2012, a gunman boarded a school bus in northern Pakistan and fired three bullets into 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s face.
On December 16, 2012, six men raped, tortured and murdered 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh on a local bus in New Delhi.
On April 14, 2014, a group of militant vigilantes in northern Nigeria kidnapped and enslaved more than 200 schoolgirls, snatching the girls as they studied in their classrooms.
Ms. Yousafzai had been so bold as to demand an education, Ms. Singh too foolish to walk the streets unafraid and the schoolgirls, too empowered in their pursuit of education.
Today, as the United Nations marks World Population Day, the strength and tribulations of these young girls and women highlight the power and importance of this year’s message: Invest in teenage girls for a more stable and peaceful world.
“When a teenage girl has the power, the means and the information to make her own decisions in life, she is more likely to overcome obstacles that stand between her and a healthy, productive future. This will benefit her, her family and her community,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in a statement on World Population Day.
“When she has no say in decisions about her education, health, work or even marital status, she may never realize her full potential or become a positive force for transformation in her home, community and nation.”
In other words, educating girls remains the most powerful and effective way to address poverty around the world.
Globally, 781 million adults are illiterate – two thirds of whom are women. In Cambodia, almost 50 percent of young girls are laborers instead of students, according to literacy and gender-equality focused NGO Room to Read.
A shift is necessary to educate countries and economies around the world that an investment in girls is an investment in the future.
“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,” the UNFPA’s statement read.
As it stands now, cultural and religious barriers and factors like gender-based violence, lack of menstrual hygiene – causing female students to drop out of school – and lack of access to modern contraception can obstruct a woman’s path to empowerment.
The UNFPA estimates that one third of girls in developing countries are married by the age of 18 – and for many young brides, marriage marks the end of education.
What’s more, the UNFPA approximates that annually, 800 girls and women die around the world each day from preventable pregnancy and child-birth related causes. These are women without access to proper healthcare and family planning services and who lack adequate education.
“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. She may be denied her human rights,” said Dr. Osotimehin.
In a world where women who seek education and empowerment are threatened with violence, it is vital that governments ensure all of its citizens have the right to determine their own futures. This World Population Day the UNFPA’s message is clear: if women attain their full potential, generations thrive and societies prosper.

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