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Our World at 7 Billion: Youth
As the planet braces for the arrival of the 7th billionth person on October 31, the media has been abuzz: what are the things we can do as a planet to speed economic development? What about climate change? Can the earth support that many people?
At IPPF/WHR, we have a different question: what does the 7th billionth person need to live a happy, healthy and empowered life? Whether born in a small village in Rajasthan or the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro, every individual has the right to quality health services and human rights protections. In this special series, we will explore 7 things we think the 7th billionth person needs and deserves.
Today’s generation of youth is the largest ever, with nearly half of the world’s population under the age of 25. Much has been said recently about the effects that the unpredictable global economy, political instability, and violence have on youth. And while these are difficult topics to address, one of the most difficult—and unspoken—challenges confronting youth today is accessing the information, commodities, and services they need to protect their health – particularly when it comes to sexual and reproductive health.
The stigma surrounding young people having sex has resulted in many having inadequate—or inaccurate—knowledge about how to form safe, consensual partnerships Even in societies where discriminatory traditions such as child marriage are slowly eroding, very little support exists for programs that address young people’s sexuality in a non-judgmental way. Good, quality comprehensive sexuality education is rarely available in schools, much less for the millions of adolescents who are out of school, and youth-friendly health services remain a boutique endeavor.
There is much to be done in this critical moment to ensure young people receive the sexual and reproductive health services they need to protect their health and rights and navigate into adulthood safely. Young people need support in developing the confidence and maturity to make informed decisions about their sexuality. They need all-inclusive and confidential services, reliable information about sex, and governments whose laws reflect their needs. Progress is possible when youth are empowered to make informed decisions about their sexual activity, and when their sexual and reproductive rights are upheld in institutional policies and programs.