Young people

About one-quarter of the world's population is between 10 to 24 years old. UNFPA promotes and protects the rights of this important generation, particularly adolescent girls, and strives to achieve a world in which girls and boys have the best opportunities to develop their full potential, to express themselves freely, to have their views respected and to live free of HIV, poverty, discrimination and violence.

About one-quarter of the world's population is between 10 to 24 years old. UNFPA promotes and protects the rights of this important generation, particularly adolescent girls, and strives to achieve a world in which girls and boys have the best opportunities to develop their full potential, to express themselves freely, to have their views respected and to live free of HIV, poverty, discrimination and violence.

On a global level, UNFPA’s efforts are guided by its Framework for Action on Adolescents and Youth, which articulates the organisation’s multisectoral strategy to promote the comprehensive development of young people worldwide. Its four pillars include:

  • addressing population, youth, and poverty issues at the policy level;
  • expanding access to gender-sensitive, life skills–based sexual and reproductive health including HIV education in schools and community settings;
  • promoting a core package of health and sexual and reproductive health/HIV services;
  • encouraging young people’s leadership and participation within the context of sector-wide approaches, poverty reduction strategies and health sector reforms.

Today's adolescents and youth are shaping social and economic development, challenging social norms and values, and building the foundation of the world's future. While notable progress has been made, many adolescents — especially girls — are denied the investments and opportunities that they need to realize their full potential. For many young people in Sierra Leone, puberty brings not only changes to their bodies but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the arenas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing.

In Sierra Leone, teenage pregnancy is one of the more pervasive problems affecting the health, social and economic progress of girls. This is reflected in the following national statistics:

  • 1 in every 3 teenage girls in Sierra Leone is pregnant - 34% of all pregnancies occur amongst teenage girls (SLDHS 2008),
  • 40% of maternal deaths occur as a result of teenage pregnancy (MICS 2010), this is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls,
  • The untimely pregnancy of young girls is ranked as one of the main reasons for them dropping out of school (UNICEF 2008).
  • 71% of teenage mothers are reported to be illiterate
  • 94.7% of married girls (15 to 19) are not using contraception

Adolescent pregnancy is dangerous, with serious long-term health consequences for the young mother and the baby. But the impacts of adolescent pregnancies are felt far beyond the walls of the family home. It also has a demonstrable impact on the social and economic development of communities and countries.

The Government of Sierra Leone has prioritised teenage pregnancy; in May of 2013, the National Strategy for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy was launched in Sierra Leone. UNFPA has been providing technical and operational support to ensure that the National Strategy responds to the expectations of Government and stakeholders. UNFPA has also provided direct support to its implementation and coordination and is now one of the most important contributors. In particular, UNFPA has supported the establishment of the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy and has been directly involved in the development of the M&E plan and Behaviour Change Communication Strategy, which will be instrumental to the success of national efforts against Teenage Pregnancy.

Other UNFPA work targeting adolescents and youth include:
  • Successful organization of the Traditional & Religious Leadersforumon Teenage Pregnancy and Child Marriage
  • Awareness raising of partners on inclusion of SRH/life-skills module in the school curriculum
  • Development of an integrated SRH moduleinto literacy and numeracy curriculum for non-formal education
  • Over 6 000 young people benefited from SRH servicesthrough UNFPA partners
  • Improved knowledge of over 25 000 young peopleon SRHR through outreach and peer education
  • In- and out-of-schools adolescents and young people trained as peer educators
  • Contraceptive counseling services provided to adolescents and young people
  • Teenage mothers clubs established
  • Health care providers from various health facilities trained to deliver quality Adolescent & Youth Sexual Reproductive Health services at community levels