Yesterday, I blogged about some of the first day’s proceedings at the CORE Group spring meeting, specifically on the importance of providing career training and opportunities to adolescents and young adults. Today, the theme of adolescents continued in breakout sessions and my technical working group meeting (Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health).
I ask you, up front, if you would agree that adolescent girls are perhaps the lost girls of global health programs.
We collect some data on them in Demographic and Health Surveys and other data collection mechanisms, but we primarily focus on women of reproductive age and girls who fall under five, who affect those key child mortality statistics. Adolescents matter as early mothers or for being married off too early, but how many of our programs truly target adolescent girls specifically? These young women who, with the proper resources and support, could stay in school, complete secondary education (dare I say, possibly university), delay childbirth to an age when they’re ready, and work in their society for positive change?
A representative from the International Youth Foundation indicated it was the official year of youth/adolescents (aside: anyone know more about this?). What that really means (particularly given that it’s May and the first I heard of it was through a comment from a woman who works for the IYF), and I wonder if we might be able to open more of a dialogue on this topic. The attendees at the CORE meeting, and particularly the members of the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Technical Working Group, are very interested in looking at opportunities to promote programs for adolescents.
Pathfinder International, Population Council, and Save the Children all have programs in place supporting adolescent girls. The first two actually promote safe space groups for girls, which have been fantastically successful in giving girls a place where they are expected each day or each week, have a cohort of their peers to support them, and have a mentor or facilitator to answer questions and provide some direction for those who need it.
If the opportunity and possibility to promote good health and positive choices doesn’t resonate with you yet, think about how many adolescent girls there are in this world. And the number is only growing. What would happen if we could reach a majority of them with messages about family planning, education, healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, avoiding early marriage, and other positive behaviors?
Just food for thought.