Put girls first, speakers urge governments during Commission on Population and Development event

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Put girls first, speakers urge governments during Commission on Population and Development event

19 April 2011

A version of this story was first published at unfpa.org

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA putting girls first during a side event at the 44th Session of the Commission on Population and Development. Credit: Antti Kaartinen/UNFPA

“Investing in adolescent girls benefits everyone, and when they flourish, their families and communities flourish as well. That’s why they are at the heart of our agenda.” This was the message of Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, speaking at the 44th Session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD).

Dr Osotimehin addressed a side event called Putting Girls First during the CPD, which ran from 11-15 April at UN Headquarters in New York. It was attended by representatives of Member States, non-governmental organizations and experts participating in the CPD from around the world.

UNFPA’s Executive Director underlined the need to promote girls’ rights and gender equality and to prioritize them within national programmes for health, education, livelihoods and security. “Depending on the opportunities or choices girls have during adolescence, they can begin adulthood as empowered and active citizens, or they can be entrenched in poverty, neglected and voiceless,” Dr Osotimehin warned. “We must put girls first today to make a better tomorrow for everyone.”

Investing in adolescent girls benefits everyone, and when they flourish, their families and communities flourish as well.

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA

Another speaker, Dr. Gill Greer, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), said that “until girls are seen by their families and communities to have the same inherent worth as their brothers we cannot achieve resilient, sustainable social, economic and environmental development.”

She noted that, on a global level, girls still lag behind boys in secondary school attendance, saying that 70% of the 130 million out-of-school young people are girls and highlighted young women’s particular vulnerability to HIV. According to UNAIDS, young women account for more than two-thirds of new infections among young people worldwide.

Dr Greer added, “Today, it is time to put girls first so they can make the decisions that will drive development, and enable them to stand beside their brothers, partners, and husbands to hold up half the sky.”