GUWAHATI, Feb 26 � Investment in adolescents should be more than what it is today. By spending more in the welfare and support of adolescents, the fight against poverty, inequity and gender discrimination can be won.
This was underlined by Assam Governor JB Patnaik, while formally releasing the �The State of the World�s Children 2011�, a UNICEF publication, at the Raj Bhawan here today.
The Governor while appreciating the existence of many agencies to promote the cause of adolescents, pointed out that proper implementation of many schemes was missing. �There is lack of adequate data regarding the demographic profile, their access to health care, education and other development services,� he further remarked.
In his view, adolescent girls, in particular face serious challenges as a high proportion of them are anaemic and girls from weaker sections are vulnerable due to child marriage, early motherhood, trafficking, HIV/AIDS, abuse and violence.
In Assam, he pointed out, official data reveals that almost 16.8 per cent of girls aged 15-19 years, were already mothers, or were pregnant at the time of the survey. Besides, around 38.6 per cent women aged 20-24 years in Assam were married before 18 years of age.
According to him, addiction to alcohol and drugs among adolescents demand urgent attention and more needs to be done to understand the needs and concerns of young boys and girls. Poverty, disparities and inequities add to the weight of the problem.
The Governor lauded the UNICEF initiative in producing the report, acknowledging its contributions towards the welfare of children and adolescents.
Jeroo Master, chief, field office, UNICEF, Assam, in her address mentioned that this year�s theme � Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity, recognizes some key facts such as the existence of a large population between the age of 10 and 19 in countries like India. The country is currently home to more than 243 million adolescents, who account for 20 per cent of the country�s population.
Adolescents, in her opinion, were crucial to break the stranglehold of poverty, inequity and deprivation. This particular phase of life contained both challenges and opportunities and required investments spread across health, education, protection and participation.
Well planned interventions were necessary in several areas for the support and welfare of adolescents in Assam. In schools, it has been seen that separate toilets for boys and girls could help retain girl students, and thus reduce the drop out rate that is higher than their male counterparts.
Master noted that in some areas diffusion of knowledge was yet to take place among adolescents. For instance, knowledge of HIV/AIDS in Assam was low compared to some other parts of the country. She expressed concern that if the situation does not improve there could be a spurt in HIV infections in the times ahead.