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UN official calls for support of teenage girls

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Rwanda Jozef Maerien on Friday called for support of teenage girls in light of reports showing they are vulnerable to a myriad of hindrances.

He was speaking at the launch of the State of World Population (SWOP) 2016 report in Kigali, entitled "10: How our future depends on a girl at this decisive age."

The report highlights the vulnerability of 10-year-old girls in many African countries.

They are hindered from finishing school, subjected to domestic chores and sexual abuse which leads to teenage pregnancy.

"With support from family, community and nation, and the full realization of her rights, a 10-year-old girl can thrive and help bring about the future we all want," said Maerien.

He argued that in terms of investing in girls, 10 years old is crucial for the development of a country because discrimination and inequality hold back a lot of development of the countries.

"We think that when 10 year old girls get access to services like education and health they will become much more productive citizens in the future," said Maerien.

He stressed that it’s vital to start at 10 years old to avoid difficulties in changing things as at 15 years a number of things seem to be too late.

The report showed there are 157,000 ten year old girls in Rwanda requiring a call for action to government, parents, and stakeholders to invest in their future development.

It acknowledged that over the last 20 years, Rwanda has made great progress towards gender equality, which has greatly benefited adolescent girls.

Establishing the legal age of marriage at 21 for both girls and boys has been a very important measure to protect girls against child marriage and gender-based violence.

However, in spite of the legal age of marriage at 21 in Rwanda, Rwanda’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2014-2015 shows cases of girls who were married off before 21.

Speaking at the same event, Dr. Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s Minister of Health concurred that starting to nurture girls from 10 years of age can be beneficial to the country´s development.

She noted that sensitization campaigns will continue to educate young girls on reproductive health, while rallying parents to dedicate time for their children.

She reaffirmed her government’s resolve to toughening punishments for violation of child rights.

The UNFPA warned that without proper response many 10-year-old girls will be wallowing in poverty, with multiple, closely-spaced pregnancies and some will already have their own 10-year-old kids by the time they reach 25.


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