Today’s generation of young people, those aged 10 to 24, accounts for around 1.8 billion of the world’s 7.3 billion people. In 1950, there were only 721 million people in this age range.
These young people are the future. Their choices, ideas and innovations will transform the world – but only if they are equipped with the right skills and opportunities.
Teenage girls around the world face enormous challenges. Many are considered by their communities or parents to be ready for marriage and motherhood. Many are forced from school, damaging their future prospects. Even among girls who stay in school, access to basic information about their health, human rights and reproductive rights can be hard to come by, leaving them vulnerable to illness, injury and exploitation. These challenges are exacerbated among marginalized girls, such as members of ethnic minorities or those living in poverty or remote areas.
Yet when teenage girls are empowered, when they know about their rights and are given the tools to succeed, they become agents of positive change in their communities.
We already see this happening. Since 1999, the number of countries with severe gender disparities in primary education has been cut by more than half. But girls continue to lag behind in secondary education: By 2012, out of all countries with data available, 63 per cent had yet to achieve gender parity in secondary school enrolment.