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World Parliamentarians Appeal for Investing in Girls
In an appeal issued at a parliamentary summit in Paris the week before the G8, some 60 Members of Parliament representing every continent asked governments to improve the performance of development assistance by targeting those who need it most – girls and young women.
“Every woman, regardless of where she comes from, has the right to have the number of children she wants, and to achieve this she must have access to information, services, technologies and the means she requires that will enable her to exercise this right,” they said in a declaration.
The hard-hitting declaration called for a range of measures from reinforcing HIV prevention among young girls to eliminating obstacles to family planning and to upholding pledges made at the 2010 G8 Summit held in Muskoka, Canada.
The Parliamentarians’ message was reinforced by Henri de Raincourt, France’s Development Cooperation Minister, who told the audience “the role of women and young girls is absolutely central to development.” France’s contribution to the €5 billion Muskoka pledges for maternal and child health amounts to €500 million.
Family planning, he said, is essential – as are education and literacy – for development, especially in view of high population growth in many countries.
“While its population can be Africa’s – and indeed the world’s – strength, it can also lead to serious difficulties,” Mr de Raincourt said. “Women suffer the most from the existing situation... Each year there are millions of unplanned pregnancies in Africa, forcing more than four million girls and women to seek unsafe abortions.”
As the world moves towards its seven billionth citizen, huge inequities persist and daunting challenges lie ahead, according to Mari Simonen, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, who spoke at the meeting’s opening.
“At the centre of these global challenges is the largest generation of young people ever – over 1.8 billion 10-24-year olds,” Ms. Simonen said. “Yet the truth is that when young people are empowered, these girls and boys, young women and men, can enter the workforce educated, skilled and healthy, and put their countries on a path of greater prosperity, peace and progress.
“Investing in adolescent girls and boys is the smartest investment a country can make. We simply cannot afford to let this potential be squandered,” she concluded.
The summit included two days of workshops and presentations by academics and high-profile activists, including Georgia’s First Lady Sandra E. Roelofs.
The appeal was launched at the close of the global parliamentarians’ summit entitled “Girls and Population: the forgotten drivers of development.” The event was hosted at the French National Assembly by the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development’s Vice-President, Hon. Danielle Bousquet, and French NGO partners Equilibres et Populations and Mouvement Français pour le Planning Familial.