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By Nicole Bella, Matthias Eck and Constanza Ginestra
Early pregnancy has been identified as a critical driver of school dropout and exclusion, especially for girls. Twenty-five years ago, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a landmark blueprint for women and girls’ rights, recognized this, calling upon governments to remove all barriers to accessing formal education for pregnant adolescents and young mothers. As we celebrate the anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, what progress has there been on this issue, and what remains to be done?
Globally, the prevalence of early pregnancy declined by one-third between 1995 and 2020, from some 60 to 40 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19. Yet, early pregnancy rates remain high in many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where, despite an overall fall over the past 25 years, rates remain at levels higher than the 1995 regional average in countries including Chad, Mali and Niger. Although it is still early to assess the impact of Covid-19 on adolescent pregnancy, restricted access to reproductive health services and increased vulnerability of girls at home due to confinement measures may also threaten the progress made.
The GEM 2020 Gender Report released last month looked at progress on protecting young mothers’ right to education since 1995 in three countries, Argentina, Sierra Leone, and the United Kingdom. In Argentina, the adolescent fertility rate fell from 61 in 1995 to 49 in 2018. In the United Kingdom, this rate has more than halved, declining from 42 to 18 between 1995 and 2017. Similarly, in Sierra Leone, the percentage of young mothers fell from 34% in 2008 to 21% in 2019.Continue reading