Putting adolescent girls’ health at heart of the post-2015 development framework

To achieve gender equality and sustainable development, we must put the health of adolescent girls at the heart of the post-2015 development framework, said representatives from the Indonesian government, UN agencies and civil society organisations at an event at the United Nations headquarters in New York last week.

Bringing together nearly 100 participants, the event – “Gender Equality and Adolescent Girls’ Health: A Post-2015 Framework for Action” – aimed to contribute to the deliberations of the 8th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

The event was hosted by the Government of Indonesia, and co-organised by Girls Not Brides, IFMSA , NCD Alliance, PMNCH, UN Foundation, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN WOMEN, World Vision International,  World YWCA, and WHO, in support of Every Woman, Every Child.

Child marriage disempowers adolescent girls for life

Adolescence is a crucial moment in a girl’s life, one that prepares her transition into adulthood. Yet, 14 million girls a year are married before 18 and before having the chance to grow and mature into their own person.

Child marriage marks a series of discriminations that will affect adolescent girls throughout their lives. Married adolescent girls often drop out of school and become mothers at an age when they are neither emotionally or physically ready to do so.

In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not address the unique needs of adolescent girls. Panel participants agreed that any new development framework, which would likely begin when the MDGs come to an end in 2015, must put the needs and rights of adolescent girls at the forefront.

To achieve sustainable development, invest in adolescent girls’ health

H.E. Professor Nila Moeloek, Indonesian President’s Special Envoy on MDGs emphasised that adolescent girls as key agents of change in development.

She noted that “when adolescents have access to qualified sexual and reproductive health services […], our development goals will be easier to achieve.

Gender equality is not an insular entity detached from its surroundings, but cuts across various issues in human development.

H.E. Professor Nila Moeloek, Indonesian President's Special Envoy on MDGs

“Gender equality and women’s health is not an insular entity detached from its surroundings, but cuts across various issues in human development, such as poverty reduction, education, health, and the environment.”

In her closing remarks, Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General at UN Women, reiterated the importance of improving the health and wellbeing of adolescent girls across all sectors to achieving sustainable development.

Other recommendations

Participants stressed the importance of increasing adolescent girls’ access to quality education, guaranteeing their safety, increasing their representation and access to resources and economic opportunities, and implementing innovative solutions to the challenges faced by adolescent girls.

Ms Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank, emphasised the need to improve access and use of gender and age disaggregated data to track progress.

Tracking changes in prevalence rates of child marriage would help measure progress achieved on improving adolescent girls’ wellbeing in the new post-2015 framework.