Every year since 1989, communities around the world mark 11 July as World Population Day, which brings to attention global population issues in the context of development plans and programmes. We now live in a world of a whopping 7 million people (and growing), with a staggering 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty, increasing demands on access to basic rights including education and healthcare.

This year’s theme for World Population Day is “Investing in Young People” and communities and organizations around the world will be committing today to empowering young people in order to improve their sexual and reproductive rights.

“On this World Population Day, I call on all with influence to prioritize youth in development plans, strengthen partnerships with youth-led organizations, and involve young people in all decisions that affect them. By empowering today’s youth, we will lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future for generations to come”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for World Population Day

Young people aged 10 to 24 make up 30% of the population with even higher percentages in low-income countries. Investing in young people and protecting their rights is essential not only to the development of themselves, their families and communities, but it also makes sound economic sense.

As the clock ticks in achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), many organizations around the world will be taking the opportunity to use World Population Day to focus on reproductive, sexual and maternal health as a means of moving forward in achieving MDG 5.

Photo Credit: Gates Foundation, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Gates Foundation, Flickr Creative Commons

Girls are the most vulnerable to poverty, malnutrition, child marriage and an immature reproductive system. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth make up the largest cause of death for adolescent girls in low-income countries. Every year, 140 million girls become child brides and 90% of adolescent girls who give birth are married. Girls who are married often either have no education or no control over their reproductive right to choose when to have children, how many children to have, and how far apart to space those children. Additionally, child marriage puts girls at greater risk of HIV.

Improving reproductive and sexual health rights is crucial in improving maternal health globally and meeting the MDG 5 target.  Specific actions include:

  • Governmental legislation around child marriage to enforce the rights of the child.
  • Access to education and training in family planning and access to contraceptives for adolescent girls and boys.
  • Training of midwives and skilled birth attendants in the specific needs of adolescent girls.

Today, on World Population Day, let’s make a commitment to empower young people!

Join the Conversation using #WPD2014

Cover Photo Credit: Gates Foundation, Flickr Creative Commons


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