When a girl reaches age 10, her world changes.
A flurry of life-changing events pulls her in many directions. Where she ends up depends on the support she receives and the power she has to shape her own future. In some parts of the world, a 10-year-old girl, on the verge of adolescence, sees limitless possibilities ahead and begins making choices that will influence her education and, later, her work and her life.
But in other parts of the world, a 10-year-old girl’s horizons are limited. As she reaches puberty, a formidable combination of relatives, figures in her community, social and cultural norms, institutions and discriminatory laws
block her path forward. By age 10, she may be forced to marry. She may be pulled out of school to begin a lifetime of childbearing and servitude to her husband.
At 10, she may become property, a commodity that can be bought and sold.
This paper was inspired above all by the meeting of leading thinkers from different religious traditions convened by UNFPA, in Istanbul and then in New York in the course of 2014. Several participants have served as long-standing advisors for the content of this paper.
In September 2014 UNFPA brought together a group of leaders from the world’s major religious traditions at the United Nations to reflect on the complex links between the vital United Nations goal of advancing women’s rights and reproductive health and reproductive rights and the religious and cultural beliefs and practices that are so vital to a large majority of the world’s people. The outcome was an inspirational Call to Action from religious actors: “Not in our name should any mother die while giving birth. Not in our name should any girl, boy, woman or man be abused, violated, or killed. Not in our name should a girl child be deprived of her education, be married, be harmed or abused. Not in our name should anyone be denied access to basic health care, nor should a child or an adolescent be denied knowledge of and care for her/his body. Not in our name should any person be denied their human rights.” The call highlighted the hurt that comes when violations of human rights occur in the name of religion, culture, or tradition. It affirmed that “sexual and reproductive health is part of human rights.”
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