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UNFPA and the Government of India Launch Multi-year Programme for Young People and Women

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Government of India have launched a reproductive health and life skills education program to fulfil the reproductive rights of young people, women and marginalized communities. The strategy will also impact the status of young girls and women. UNFPA and the Govt. of India have signed a five- year plan of co-operation in-effect from 2013 till 2017 that is set to make an important contribution to achieving health objectives articulated  in the government’s 12th five-year plan, and accelerate progress on international development targets including the MDGs. The joint agreement between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and UNFPA was signed on the 30th of January, 2013.

The programme focuses on India’s largest ever population of young people. Secretary MOHFW, Mr Pradhan, said, “This programme focuses on key priorities for our population- young people, gender, and ageing. This partnership will help us become more sensitised to their needs and develop expertise to plan policies accordingly.”

While focusing on young people, UNFPA will also help the government prepare to meet the needs of a rapidly ageing population. By 2030, the number of people over 60 will double. And by 2050, around 20 percent of the population would be elderly.

Right now, India is one of the youngest nations in the world. 358 million or almost one third of the country’s population is young aged 10-24 years.  Yet, almost half of girls are married before the age of 18. One in five young women, aged 20-24, has a child before she is 18. Two of five maternal deaths occur in women aged 20-24.

Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and delivering gender equality are central to the ICPD plan of action and MDGs. While UN member countries agreed to meet these targets by 2015, in many developing countries, including in India, much remains to be done. 

Frederika Meijer, UNFPA representative India and Bhutan, rationalised the focus of this programme: “Investing is the health of vulnerable young women and marginalised communities including tribals and minorities is a key priority for UNFPA, as we believe that investing in young girls helps break cycles of poverty within families. We will work with the government to reach out to greater numbers of adolescents and their families with information on the benefits of delaying marriage, letting girls stay in school longer, delaying child bearing and increasing their access to voluntary family planning. If a young girl can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life.”

Key to UNFPA’s mandate is providing young people a gender sensitive, life skills–based sexual and reproductive health education. A life-skills education gives adolescents information and skills to negotiate real life situations, including reproductive health illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, and moulds their attitudes to gender and substance abuse, impacting several development objectives. With the help of various ministries, the life- skills education would be expanded to reach not only young people in schools, but also those who out of school in various states of the country.

During the course of this programme, UNFPA will work towards ensuring that young people are partners in development, and have a say in national policies. We will lead extensive consultations between the government, civil society and young people, to factor in their needs in national policy- making. 
Achieving gender equality is a key area of co-operation. UNFPA will lend technical expertise to the govt. to address a highly skewed sex ratio and reduce the high incidence of child marriage- key indicators of gender inequality.
 

For more information, please contact:

Rajat Ray, Advocacy and Communications Officer UNFPA India. Email: ray@unfpa.org