Tomorrow, FHI 360 on behalf of the IYWG, will host a panel presentation at 2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference on the intersection of adolescent girls’ economic empowerment and sexual and reproductive health. 

Adolescent girls face multiple economic disparities and sexual and reproductive health challenges.  Adolescent girls are more vulnerable to HIV and other STIs than males, and experience high rates of sexual violence, pregnancy, maternal mortality and morbidity and early marriage.  Females make up more than 60% of all young people living with HIV and account for 72% of young people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 16 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year and childbirth related complications are the number one cause of death among girls ages 15-19. One out of seven girls in developing countries marries before age 15, and approximately 1 in 5 females will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

Along with myriad sexual and reproductive health challenges, adolescent girls also face multiple economic disparities. Of all out-of-school youth, 70% are girls. Globally, young women are less likely to be employed than young men and earn lower wages than young men. Furthermore, increased household responsibilities among adolescent girls hinder their ability to find work outside of the home and to attend school.

Economic disparity is both a cause and a consequence of negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

Girls with low socioeconomic standing are at an increased risk of marrying early and of engaging in transactional sex or intergenerational relationships. Lower socioeconomic standing also increases young women’s chances of experiencing sexual and intimate partner violence; all increasing adolescent girls’ risk of early pregnancy and HIV infection. Likewise, early and unintended pregnancy as well as HIV infection can hinder young women’s economic opportunities. Girls who become pregnant are more likely to leave school early, bear more children at shorter intervals, and have a lower income throughout their lifetime. Adolescent girls who become infected with HIV may be less able to find work because of stigma surrounding the disease, or less able to keep work because of their illness.

Research suggests that multi-faceted program approaches to adolescent girl’s health and economic empowerment can improve these outcomes. Our panel tomorrow, entitled, “Exploring the Intersection of Adolescent Girls’ Reproductive Health and Economic Empowerment,” will share innovative programs from Population Council, ICRW, and Restless Development all addressing the  intersection of girls’ economic empowerment and sexual and reproductive health.

“Exploring the Intersection of Adolescent Girls’ Reproductive Health and Economic Empowerment” will take place on September 12, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. in room 300 of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Conference Center.