In Ghana 10-year-old girls face greater risks than boys the same age – UNFPA

Babatunde Ahonsi - UNFPA representative Ghana
Babatunde Ahonsi – UNFPA representative Ghana

Girls at the age of ten in Ghana are exposed to greater risks than boys the same age, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The State of World population report 2016, shows that the global cohorts of 10-year-olds live in a world different from the one their parents grew up in, with unique challenges and opportunities.

“For most girls, turning age ten means reaching the most vulnerable point in their lives,” it adds.

The UNFPA indicates that, a girl at age ten becomes vulnerable and must negotiate the tricky transition to being an adult, with its rapid physical and psychological changes as well as the dramatic shifts within family and social expectations.

The report noted that although risks abound for both girls and boys, gender discrimination makes girls more vulnerable to these risks than boys in almost every way.

It notes further that, public policies do not adequately manage these risks, plus social norms and practices may make the risks to girls more severe.

The report advances that, when a girl reaches age ten, her world changes and a number of life- changing events pull her in many directions. However, where she ultimately ends up depends on the support she receives and the power she has to shape her own future.

A 10-year-old girl, on the verge of adolescence, sees limitless possibilities ahead and begins making choices that will influence her education, choice of work and her life outcome. But elsewhere, a 10-year-old girl’s horizons are limited. As she reaches puberty, a combination of social and cultural norms, institutions and discriminatory laws inhibit her progress, the report says.

An estimated 322,560 girls turned ten in Ghana this year, while an additional 322,757 girls would reach that age next year. This according to the report, indicates that more and more girls would attain this decisive age annually, in view of the country’s largely youthful population.

The report adds that investing in these girls is therefore a must in order to reap the demographic dividend. This is because any country having a large youthful population of which over fifty percent are girls could potentially see its economy soar, provided there are heavy investments in their education, health and protection of their rights.

The Sustainable Development Goals in relation to the future of girls

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) aim at equitable, inclusive development that leaves no one behind. This 15-year plan promises to help transform the futures of millions of 10-year-old girls who have traditionally been left behind, the report said.

Dr Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA Representative in Ghana in his opening statement said, the 2016 State of the World Population report, released officially on the October 20, shows how 10-year-old girls, about 60 million of them worldwide, are the face of the future.

“They are the starting point of achieving the globally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the African Union’s Agenda 2063,” he adds.

Dr.William Ahadzie, Chairman of the National Population Council (NPC) stated that most girls at age ten are vulnerable because, “We have not paid attention to them. We will track a 15 year period to find out whether as a nation, we have responded to the challenges of these girls and issue out a report of how the tracking went”.

However, many of the SDG’s may only be achieved if everyone’s potential, including that of all 10-year-old girls are realized.

Ten essential actions required for the 10-year old girl to realize her human rights and unleash her potential.

Laws: 1. Stipulate legal equality for girls, backed by consistent legal practices

  1. Ban all harmful practices (FGM, child marriage, etc) against girls, and make 18 the minimum marriage age.

Service: 3. Provide safe high quality education that fully upholds gender equality in curricula, teaching standards and extra curricular activities.

  1. In working towards universal health care, institute a 10-year-old mental and physical health check–up for all girls.
  2. Provide age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education when puberty begins.

Policy: 6. Institute a rigorous and systematic focus on inclusion, acting in all factors rendering girls vulnerable to being left behind.

Investments: 7. Track and close investment gaps in young adolescent.

  1. Mobilize new funds for mental health, protection and reducing unpaid work that constrains options for girls.

Data: 9. Use the 2030 Agenda data revolution to better track progress for girls, including sexual and reproductive health.

Norms: 10. Engage girls, boys and all the people around them in challenging and changing gender discriminatory norms.

Pamela Ofori-Boateng
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