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In many countries, 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.

Without education, in poor health, and with little or no control over her own body, her future can be 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 or is from a poor household.

But 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.

A demographic dividend is a boost in economic growth that occurs when there is a larger number of people of working age than those below or above working age. Maximizing the dividend depends on the empowerment, education and employment of the people, together with higher savings and investment in productive resources.

Every teenage girl has the right to a safe and successful transition into adulthood and the right to embrace the opportunities that the future holds for her. UNFPA, your United Nations Population Fund, is committed to promoting and protecting these rights and to supporting teenage girls to determine their own destinies. 

Policymakers play an important role in ensuring that human rights are universal and thus enjoyed by all, including teenage girls, who worldwide face obstacles to their rights to education, health and freedom from violence. Communities, non-governmental organizations, youth-led groups, activists, faith-based institutions and girls themselves also have a vital role to play in shaping policies that affect their lives and in making sure that these policies are translated into real, positive transformation.

Quote from the Executive Director

“The new development agenda calls on us to leave no one behind. To reach those furthest behind, leaders and communities must focus on and stand up for the human rights of the most marginalized teenage girls, particularly those who are poor, out of school, exploited, or subjected to harmful practices, including child marriage. Marginalized girls are vulnerable to poor reproductive health and more likely to become mothers while still children themselves. They have a right to understand and control their own bodies and shape their own lives.”

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin