What Does Population Growth Have to Do with Youth Health and Rights?

As we get closer to the birth of the world’s 7 billionth person, there are a lot of conversations brewing about what the impact of population growth might be. Last week the New York Times published an article about the need to control world population, written as a result of the United Nations announcement that there will likely be 10.1 billion people on the planet by the year 2100.

Yesterday IWHC President Adrienne Germain published a letter to the editor in the New York Times that makes the case for investing in comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). CSE programs provide age-appropriate and accurate information on health and sexuality, including prevention of HIV and other STIs. In her letter, Adrienne advocates for young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services so that they can make positive and responsible decisions about their sexuality, relationships and childbearing. Young people must be engaged in conversations about their health and rights today because more than half of projected future population growth in developing countries (excluding China) will come from today’s adolescents and young adults.

Today’s generation of adolescents is the largest ever – there are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 10 and 19 alive today. Yet only 40 percent of young men and 36 percent of young women have accurate knowledge of HIV and how it is transmitted. To protect their health and rights, young people need evidence-based, accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, as well as support and skills to feel comfortable and confident about their bodies and their sexuality. IWHC has long supported well-designed and delivered CSE programs that benefit entire communities:

  • In Pakistan, Aahung trained nearly 50,000 service providers, educators, and young people over three years. Those trained now reach hundreds of thousands more with information about HIV prevention; violence against women; and healthy, consensual relationships.
  • In Brazil, Grupo Curumim’s CSE program, Programa Cunhatã, empowers 50 young people each year, who create their own projects to educate other youth in their communities.
  • In Nigeria, the Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI) empowers girls ages 10-18 with information about their rights, their bodies, and their responsibilities. In a survey of GPI graduates, seventy percent said that they can now communicate effectively with their parents, which they found difficult or impossible to do before the program.

Click here to learn more about the work we do, along with our partners, to educate a generation of young people to make life decisions that could stabilize population at a lower level—and affirm their right to a just and healthy life.

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