News / Asia

UN: Youth Must Have a Voice

FILE - Malala Yousafzai.
FILE - Malala Yousafzai.
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations warns that governments are ignoring the voices of young people and excluding them from important policy decisions at their peril. As nations mark World Population Day on July 11, the U.N. Population Fund says investing in the well-being of adolescents and young people benefits communities throughout the world.

Young people comprise nearly two billion of the more than seven billion people who now live on this Earth. Such a large number of people is a powerful force and cannot easily be ignored. Nevertheless, adolescents and young people are marginalized and subject to some of the worst violations and deprivations in many countries.

Urban and Rural PopulationsUrban and Rural Populations
x
Urban and Rural Populations
Urban and Rural Populations

The U.N. Population Fund reports an estimated 515 million adolescents and youth aged 15 to 24 live on less than $2 a day. But despite the numbers it notes two out of three countries do not consult young people on key policy decisions that affect their lives.

The agency says young people face many challenges, especially in poor developing countries in Africa and Asia, where the young population is huge.  Obstetrician and senior advisor for maternal health at UNFPA Luc de Bernis said millions of young people who enter puberty are faced with physical changes and become vulnerable to human rights abuses as well.

“This is particularly important where the youth and adolescent, particularly girls are facing high risks-risks of coerced sex and, we know that 10 percent of the young girls, which started the intercourse experiences before 16-it is due to coerced sex and this is leading to complications to early pregnancy, to abortions,” said de Bernis. 

Globally, U.N. statistics find, more than 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth every year. The U.N. says early marriages, early pregnancies and births account for the high percentage of maternal deaths in developing countries. 

In addition, studies show more than two million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 are living with HIV, a disease linked to coerced sex in such cases.

De Bernis told VOA it is tragic that young girls are forced to face so many unacceptable risks.

“It took me years working in developing countries to understand, to realize that when you are a small girl, a young girl, you have no place where you can be safe. You cannot be safe very often in the family, unfortunately. You cannot be safe in the street. You cannot be safe at school when girls are not respected, when there is no toilet, where there is no space and where the violence is,” said de Bernis. 

De Bernis said healthy, educated, productive young people can help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and can contribute to their communities and nations. He said UNFPA is working with governments and with civil society to promote comprehensive sexuality education as well as quality sexual and reproductive health services.

He also said the agency is working with traditional leaders to try to change their perception of young people and to get their support in banning early marriage and improving young lives.

He thinks the old adage that “children should be seen and not heard” is twisted.  On the contrary, he said, governments would do well to listen to the voices of young people, to respect them and to realize how all can benefit from the contributions youths can make to their country’s development.  

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid