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Girls & Women

1/4 of the world is between 10 and 24


After reading through, #ShowYourSelfie to tell world leaders you care about the rights of adolescents and youth.

I bet you didn't know that teenagers and young people make up a quarter of the world's population. That’s 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24. Why does that matter? Is it a problem for the world? 

Unfortunately, most young people around the world are not represented in the global decisions that directly impact their lives.

The problem? When young people don’t have a say in their future, they face higher barriers to reach their full potential and contribute fully to their communities. In many parts of the world, youth don’t have the opportunity to pursue an education or have access to basic needs, such as health services. 515 million young people live on less than $2 US dollars per day.

That gives you and me--as Global Citizens--1.8 billion reasons to make sure the basic rights and needs of all young people everywhere are heard and addressed. How can we do that? 

Over the next year, a new global document and framework - the Post-2015 Development Agenda - will determine which key issues become a global focus for governments around the world. There are 6 different ways that we, the global community, can prioritize investments in today’s youth today to impact their lives for the next generation.

1. Quality education for all adolescent girls and boys, at least through secondary level

Photo:Wikimedia Commons

Worldwide, 57 million young people currently remain out of school. In developing countries, a quarter of young men and a third of young women are illiterate -- that’s 12.1%. Eve those who do stay in school may not receive a quality education.

Access to education is one of the best ways to decrease poverty. A girl’s income will increase by up to 25% only by staying in school one more year. Children who have the chance to stay in school are also less likely to be forced into early marriages or work dangerous jobs in order to feed their families.

2. Training and entrepreneurship skills development to enable employment


40% of the world’s unemployed are youth. The global unemployment rate is 4.5%, but the global youth unemployment rate stands at 12.6%.

Many young people are forced to work poor quality and low paid jobs that are oftentimes dangerous. By giving youth the skills and training to innovate and lead productive lives, everyone benefits.

3. Comprehensive education on health, sexuality, gender equality and human rights for all adolescents and youth

Flickr: US Department of Agriculture

Worldwide, more than 15 million girls between 15 and 19 years old give birth each year -- and most are unplanned pregnancies. More than 2 million teenagers are living with HIV. In areas such as East and Southern Africa, less than 40% of the youth population understands the health risks associated with unsafe sex.

Sex education helps reduce teen pregnancies and increase contraceptive use.

4. Access to quality health care services, in particular to sexual and reproductive health services and information, especially for adolescent girls, that respect confidentiality.

Flickr: HaoJan Chang

More than 222 million young women and girls don’t have access to modern forms of contraception. What’s more, more than 50% of youth living in rural areas don’t receive information about contraceptives. If they do, the information is often false, biased or not comprehensive.

Youth-friendly family planning information and services are an important tool to let young boys and girls plan their fertility and their lives.

5. Work to eliminate all forms of violence and harmful practices against teenage girls and young women

Flickr: Brian Stacey

1 in 3 women and girls worldwide, one billion, will experience violence in their lifetime just because of their gender. Harmful practices such as forced early marriage, honor killings and female genital mutilation must be stopped.

6. Participation of young people in decision-making that affects them.


Two out of three countries don’t consult young people as part of their decision-making process. This must change. Young people’s participation in decision-making is a long-term investment to promote sustainable and democratic social processes at the local and global levels.

By prioritizing investments in this generation, the new Post-2015 Development Agenda will ensure that the human rights of all adolescents and youth are protected and fulfilled. Join me and young people around the world who have already called on their Member States to support the Colombo Declaration on Youth , ensuring that the rights of adolescents and youth are heard loud and clear.