“I wish to become a doctor … young people copy wrong behavior from the streets but I want to copy only positive behavior …”, 10 year old Zandile Munamati from Ben Thema Primary School providing an adolescent-girl’s aspiration during the media brief to launch of the 2016 State of the World Population (SWOP) report. The Report entitled, “10: How our future depends on a girl at this decisive age” argues that failure to invest effectively in 10-year-old girls now may hamper economic growth and progress for years, if not generations. Ten is a pivotal age for girls as they enter adolescence and approach puberty. A girl at this age enjoys limitless possibilities and begins making choices that will influence her education and, later, her work life. UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin says, “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.”
Olorato Paseko from Maoka Junior Secondary School highlighted the challenges that girls face and opportunities that need to be explored to build a brighter future for girls. She noted challenges with regards to gender inequality, gender based violence, different kinds of abuse including sexual harassment, teenage pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse. Olorato argued there has to be deliberate efforts and programmes aimed at empowering girls at school level. “We are intelligent, smart, goal oriented, you name it, all in all we have the brains”. Presenting highlights of the report, the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme Specialist Ms Kefilwe Koogotsitse indicated that in Botswana there are 20,984 10 year-old girls and for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school 96 girls are enrolled, while defilement of young girls account for 27% of sexual violence cases. There are 4.4% 10-14 year old girls living with HIV.
In her launch statement, the UNFPA Assistant Representative Ms Mareledi Segotso said that “the success of Sustainable Development Goals, 15 years from now, will depend on how well stakeholders invest and support 10 year old girls today”. She noted that at 10, a girl will be approaching puberty and unfortunately that is when her future can grow bleak as in most cases it is when many people start to think of her as a commodity that may be bought, sold or traded--for work, childbearing or sex. Ms Segotso advised that in order to ensure a brighter future for the 10 year old girls measures should be put into place to protect their rights. Governments should scale up programmes to keep girls in school longer as this ensures a healthy transition into adulthood and increased income.