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Health is a basic human right and a key factor in the Girl Declaration. Also, April 7 is World Health Day! So this week we asked members of the Girl Engagement Advisory Board to tell us about health in their home countries, especially sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The most important thing, I think, is that everyone gets a proper health education. In Bulgaria we have biology classes and we are talking about youth’s health, but it’s not that much. If there are se classes included in the education program of our country things will get better for sure. The percentage of young people who drop out of school will reduce and they will care more about themselves. – Preslava, 19, Bulgaria

While I am lucky to live in the US where there is great health care available, this “great” health care is not available to every person in the US. With educational programs in school, community centers and through doctor’s offices the US looks like it’s doing a swell job of providing girls the health information they need as they transition to adulthood.

Really though we’re doing a pretty sub-par job. With high rates of teenage pregnancy, STI transition, HIV/AIDS rates, and things like heart disease and diabetes rampant…the US does look that good compared with what we are doing compared to what we could be doing.

I think that by moving to a system that is truly a system for everyone, where every person can receive health information, care, and advice. And combining that with anti-stigma campaigns and truly non-religious and non-agenda based teaching and health-care provisions is what needs to be the focus of the USA for us to get anywhere in our mission to supply health care to millions, specifically millions of girls who are suffering tremendously because of this lack of access and availability. – Allison, 19, United States

Pakistan has vigilantly supported and worked for the spread of education and recent statistics from UNICEF show that the female literacy rate has risen significantly from a paltry 39.6 percent to a much improved rate of 61.5% for 15-24 year-olds, a highly significant factor given that 70% of Pakistan’s population is under 30. However, the schools are hesitant to discuss sex related topics and are embarrassed to talk about the problem girls face as they transition to adulthood. This ‘taboo’ needs to be eradicated as girls are unable to receive any information regarding safe health and nutrition.
Although there are several known and fully equipped hospitals with professional gynecologists to assist girls in urban areas, in rural areas, where 80% of Pakistan’s population resides, there is a dearth of efficient medical care for girls which results in girls giving birth at home and producing several children because of a lack of contraceptives available.

Campaigns and family planning agencies have helped to inculcate basic health knowledge in girls however the people of Pakistan are reluctant to make use of contraceptives and encourage child marriage which results in early pregnancies and deaths. Women are forced to use local methods to cure any sort of pain rather than ask for professional help.

Poverty is a major factor in determining if girls are able to receive information and access services regarding safe health care. Several poor girls can’t even afford sanitary pads. Their transition to adulthood is definitely not healthy and they are considered as adults as soon as they reach the age of 12 or 13, which is also the age they are married at in most cases.

NGO’s such as Aurat (Women) Foundation have been working vigilantly to ensure that each girl is given safe health care and also given an access to medicine and contraceptives. The government has set up several hospitals and gynecologist clinics where women can receive information; however, they are in horrible conditions now. The government needs to strictly implement already established policies and create new policies to ensure that each girl is able to access information and services related to healthcare whether she is poor or not. Furthermore, it is pertinent that sex education is taught in schools which is independent of any religious bias with emphasis on the ways girls hormones affect their bodies as they transit into adulthood so they may be more capable of handling their health problems. Campaigns highlighting the causes of certain diseases and health problems specifically in girls can help tremendously. – Hamna, 17, Pakistan

The health of adolescents is profoundly linked to their development since their physical, psychological and social abilities help to determine their behavior. Healthy development of adolescents is dependent upon several complex factors: their socio-economic circumstances, the environment in which they live and grow. In Nepal, adolescents comprise more than one fifth (22%) of the total population. As a result of population momentum the adolescent population will continue to grow for at least twenty years. According to Nepal Family Health Survey (NFHS), one fourth (24%) of adolescents are already pregnant with their first child. And also 50% of adolescents mother do not receive antenatal care and deliveries are done at home. In my opinion in order to decrease such problems government should increase the accessibility and utilization of adolescents health and counseling services and create supportive environment. – Muna, 19, Nepal

Although many efforts like the Millennium Development goals have been made to improve health globally, one of the biggest issues in my country is health, especially girls’ health. In poor villages, most girls do not get an education, not to mention education about their reproductive health and rights. Consequently, these girls get married at very early ages without having a clue about the consequences of early marriage. They have no access to contraceptives and they end up having so many children that they can not feed or look after them. Moreover, because most people in these poor villages are uneducated, harmful practices such as FGM continue to happen everyday. Many girls die after suffering for hours because of this practice and still, authorities turn a blind eye and society considers it the norm. Just because such practices do not happen in the city, doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that they happen in poor villages.

To end this injustice, the government has to start by educating girls about their reproductive health and rights. Campaigns can be used to make the society aware of the dangers of early marriage and practices like FGM. The government should pass laws that make education for girls compulsory and make practices such as FGM illegal. The implementation should also be effective by hiring officials to work in poor villages and not just big cities. The
world has to work harder to improve health globally. – Mai, 16, Egypt

Categories: International