>> CONTRIBUTION POSTED ON THE GLOBAL FSN FORUM
This is a very important discussion especially since young persons in this age group are in an overlapping category - a grey zone so to say - by which depending on the context they can be considered children or youth. They meet the minimum age of employment (i.e. considered as youth employment), but still need to be protected from hazardous forms of work (considered as child labour).
Given its importance, I would like to use this oportunity to emphasise the gender dimension in this very interesting discourse. Gender-bias in terms of employment occurs within all age groups, starting from early childhood. Hence, there is a need to also address this specific age group in a fully gender-sensitive manner and with a focused awareness of gendered differences and their different causalities which do have a significant impact on not only the lives and the livelihoods of boys or girls aged 15-17 in the present time but also wider, on the national economy, including in the future.
Given that rural women and girls often face greater discrimination in terms of acess to decent work than men, also due to previaling gender-biased social, cultural or religious norms and practices, I would foremostly like to highlight here some critical elements that are pertinent for girls and young women in the 15-17 age group.
Girls within this age range face constraints symptomatic for both child and youth age groups. However, in addition, they are:
- - of high risk of early or child pregnancies which hinders considerably the mothers-to-be in their schooling. This has, among others, long-term adverse impacts on their subsequent productivity (income generation and access to decent work and employment opportunities) as well as their and their children’s later wealth status. Child pregnancies affect nearly 20 percent of adolescent girls in developing countries or about 7 million girls below 18 years per annum;
- - of high risk of child marriage: one in three girls in developing countries is likely to be married before she reaches 18 years (predominantly in this age range);
Both mentioned issues are applicable to girls of this age group, particularly so in rural areas of developing economies and deserves serious attention. Here are a few reasons why:
- Child marriage is often a threat to girls’ lives and health, and it limits their future prospects. Girls pressed into child marriage often become pregnant while still adolescents, increasing the risk of complications in pregnancy or at childbirth.
- Impoverished, poorly educated and rural girls are more likely to become pregnant earlier than their wealthier, urban, educated counterparts.
- Child pregnancies hinder the mother-to-be in their schooling which has, among others, adverse impacts on their subsequent productivity (income generation and access to decent employment opportunities) as well as wealth status;
- Child pregnancies are often economically but also developmentally (esp. health) detrimental for both the mother and her child/children;
Speaking more broadly, child pregnancies harm the economic development in a long run, given that they may, among others, perpetuate poverty of the mother and their children due to the above reasons.
According to the recent UNFPA report (2013), about 7 million girls below 18 years in developing countries which is about 20,000 girls below age 18 giving birth per day in developing countries. [State of World Population 2013: Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the challenge of adolescent pregnancy, See also: http://www.unfpa.org/child-marriage]:
- ‘’It is not just mothers and babies that suffer consequences. Children having children also severely impacts communities and nations’ economies. For example, if the more than 200,000 adolescent mothers in Kenya were employed instead of having become pregnant, $3.4 billion could have been added to the economy. This is equivalent to the value of Kenya’s entire construction sector. If adolescent girls in Brazil and India had been able to wait until their early 20s, the countries would have greater economic productivity equal to over $3.5 billion and $7.7 billion, respectively.’’
Other issues to be taken into account are: girls subordinate position vis-à-vis acquisition/accumulation of particularly human, physical and natural resources capital which are needed for the acquisition of decent employment and work.
Girls’ time burden or time poverty (they are more engaged than boys of the same age in reproductive and domestic activities which often prevents them in continuing their education or engage in productive and financially viable work that may empower them; invisibility of much of girls work, etc. They may also have few market opportunities, lack of broader institutional support and limited access to representative organizations and are more likely to accept employment in the informal economy.
I hope that these few thoughts can contribute to this very important debate and I would be particularly interested in hearing about any country-level and/or sectorial examples.