By Viknesh Naidu, Key Correspondent for the Irish Forum for Global Health
10 – The number of completion, the first two-digit number, a perfect score. 10 years of age represents the beginning of the second decade of life, a crucial time to explore and discover one’s potential. For girls, it is also to the approximate age of the onset of puberty, the start of transition towards adulthood.
On 21st October 2016, the launch of the annual report on the State of World Population by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), themed 10: How our future depends on a girl at this decisive age, was held at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), Ireland’s leading sexual health provider, played hosts for the day, and the launch was chaired by Ms Jan O’Sullivan TD, Chair of the All-Party Oireachtas Interest Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Development.
Lack of respect for the rights of girls in many contexts leads to serious risks such as dropping out of school, child marriage, early pregnancy, or violent practices like female genital mutilation (FGM). Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD, the Minister of State for Health Promotion, stressed that the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on 10-year-old girls realising their potential. Ensuring that not one of these 60 million girls is left behind is imperative as a guiding principle. As many as 89% of the world’s 10-year-olds live in less highly developed countries, where measures such as better access to healthcare, developmental checks and physical examinations are much needed.
While paying tribute to Trinity College Dublin, the alumni of which contributed to his medical education, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UNFPA, gave a heartfelt speech addressing the inequalities faced by the female gender and the need for rights-based development. He stated that girls should feel empowered and be able to make the important choices in their lives, namely when to marry and when to have children. Dr Osotimehin took a defiant stance against FGM, an issue commonplace in his home country of Nigeria until a federal ban last year. Societal pressure and culture are important elements in the practice, however he emphasised that “cultures change … they evolve.” With regards to child marriage-related policies, he added that “while legislation is good, community action is more important.”
The UNFPA State of World Population 2016 report is accessible at http://www.unfpa.org/swop
Dr Viknesh Naidu, MBBS, is a medical officer with 5 years’ experience in psychiatry and mental health in his home country of Malaysia. He has previously managed patients in the community setting, and treated children with mental illness, as well as dual-diagnosis cases (individuals with both substance use and mental disorder). He has also volunteered in orphanages, health centres and outreach programmes for rural communities in Nairobi, Kenya. Hailing from Johor Bahru, Peninsular Malaysia’s southernmost city, he is currently pursuing a Masters in Global Health in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. In his spare time, he enjoys travelling, writing blogs, watching films and getting better acquainted with Irish culture.