If we want to achieve the Global Goals, we must protect girls from violence
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Adolescent girls – not only in Jamaica but around the world – face daily issues regarding their sexual and reproductive health as well as their safety and security. Sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, and HIV prevalence are at the heart of these issues. Our young girls are vulnerable especially with an increase in the early age of sexual debut, low use of contraceptives and high rates of sexual violence.
In Jamaica, UNICEF has put in place a data collection tool for young people called U-Report. Recently, 45% of over a thousand U-Reporters stated that the most pressing issue affecting their communities was Violence and Abuse.
Gender disparities, inter-generational and transactional sex, and sexual violence contribute to a systematic breakdown of the holistic development of our adolescent girls.
One example is my own friend who was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of only 15. She was unable to bring her case to anyone beyond her circle of friends out of fear not only of reputation, but for her life as well. As time progressed she became depressed and started to seek comfort in the men she date.
I wish I had the luxury to finish this story but to this day we have no idea where she is. She never got the support or the council she needed to overcome sexual abuse and we have other young girls around the world living the same or story and this cannot continue.
The SDGs were put in place as a medium of global development and as such, no country ought to be left behind in their development. But how do we intend to achieve this international agenda if our young girls are at risk? There is an urgent need for investment in our young girls and their rights, by increasing the amount of funding being pumped into child care and protection initiatives.
We need to invest in girls such as Asra, Anooshe, Alex, Jennifer, Katherine.These aren’t just random names, these are the names of some of the survivors of sexual and domestic violence across the world.
Last week I joined a group of young women from Mali, Lebanon, Benin, Canada and South Africa and spoke to development Ministers and representatives from the G7 countries about the needs of adolescent girls. One of my proposals to them is that they ought to come together and create a group of competent young women to formulate an Adolescent Care and Protection Strategic Plan by young women, for young women. This will help to ensure that funding is allocated and spent effectively.
As youth leaders, we are working assiduously towards making this world a better place, but we lack the support we truly deserve. Global leaders have the power to change that: the power to not only provide us with the resources necessary for us to carry out our jobs, but to also lend us the support we need to stay motived, to believe that our work is not in vain.
We need support to achieve a promised tomorrow where young girls are able to flourish into powerful agents of change not only equipped to change their own lives, their families or their communities but the entire world.