16 thoughts on “What’s The #1 Killer Of Girls Aged 15-19 Worldwide?

  1. Yes, I find this an incredibly disturbing campaign, pushing american white values onto other cultures, especially with regards to sex. Rather like the American ban on supporting contraception, or condoms for sex workers actual evidence is dismissed in the face of patronizing moral panics.
    You can marry in the UK in 16…are they “child brides” ? Are the excellent teen mums I know best supported by stigma and shock horror attitudes or good health care and support? The difference between an under 15 having children and an 19 year old (the age my mother had me) is huge.

  2. I had assumed, perhaps wrongly–the campaign isn’t clear–that inadequate health care is a big part of the story.

  3. It doesn’t seem to me that preventing the deaths of teenage girls is a white American value. Of course, campaigns like this can be conducted in a patronizing way, but I don’t see anything patronizing in this one.

  4. Then why not campaign for better health services instead of arbitrarily deciding what age is acceptable to have children at?

  5. De Benny – I thought the focus on marriage was a little strange too, but presumably having children sooner in the relevant countries is less likely among unmarried people and that’s why it’s mentioned so explicitly (or because people have a potentially justified worry about marriages between people who are adolesecents, I’m not quite sure).

    jemima101 – I thought the main focus wasn’t just on health outcomes but also on the economic impact of women in developing countries having children earlier rather than later. If there’s a strong relationship between the two then perhaps it makes sense to either advocate having children later to women in those countries, to support access to family planning (the WHO website claims that an estimated 222 million women who would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any form of contraception, so this isn’t all just an imposition from the outside), or to give to charities whose health and economic impact will in turn reduce the number of adolescent pregnancies. It hardly seems like in doing so they’re deciding what age having children is acceptable, nor would the recommended age range for starting to have children need to be arbitrary.

  6. I don’t think this is just about access to health care or medical infrastructure, though that is a big part of the problem. It’s also about access to education for girls and women. Often, once a girl is married, her formal education ends. This poster does not state this explicitly, but it is a significant consequence of girls marrying very young in developing countries.

    A very real issue that underlies the statistics that this poster highlights is the autonomy of girls and whether they have the freedom to choose who and when they marry and have children.

  7. Apparently, one of the causes of death for women in this demographic is botched abortions. Another is that the girls who are married young tend to be less educated about reproductive health and have little control over their reproductive lives. See http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/component/content/article/436-adolescent-maternal-mortality-an-overlooked-crisis. The implication (correct or not) is that the young women who are at risk would not choose to have children so young, or have as many children as they do, if they had more control over their reproductivity. (The stats about unsafe abortion tend to support this.)

  8. To some extent, there might be some pragmatic issues involved: what works best, fighting against teen marriage or fighting in favor of teen education? There’s always the risk that directly attempting to prevent teen marriage could backfire, as people perceive these attempts to be an attack on their culture. It might be more effective to prevent teen marriage through promoting education, rather than through directly criticizing teen marriage itself.

    If I recall, there’s a similar issue in work against that phenomenon which can be called either “female genital mutilation” or “female genital cutting.” If I recall, calling it “female genital cutting” is much more effective at preventing it, as people perceive the term “female genital mutilation” to be an attack against their culture.

  9. Matt – It seems like this campaign is indeed trying to fight early marriage and childbearing by giving to education and training charities that are focussed on young women (you can see the list of charities they distribute funds to here: http://www.globalgiving.org/girleffect/learn-more/). This might be better than other interventions, but I’d be interested to know what the main reasons for early marriage are, and whether health charities would be better sources of donations if you want to reduce early marriage and childbearing. I’m not sure, but perhaps families would be more inclined to support young women in school if they perform better as a result of being less malnourished, and perhaps childbearing would be easier to delay if infant mortality were reduced, if women simply have access to effective contraceptives, and if you saw the kind of economic improvements that we’d expect to arise from things like reducing malnutrition. I know there are at least questions about the effectiveness of direct education charities like the ones the campaign supports when compared with the effectiveness of health charities. I suspect that if you want to reduce early childbearing then improving general health might actually be the way to go (which seems even more indirect than the education route!).

  10. Also, unconditional transfers seem to help lowering early marriage and early pregnancy too (though I don’t know how they compare with health/education interventions, and could only find one study based in Malawi that supported this).

  11. The sitution in Bangladesh would suggest that ensuring all girls had access to primary education does lead to women choosing to have smaller familes, and a delay in starting those families .

  12. jemima101 – That certainly seems very plausible, I was just wondering firstly whether access to education is improved more by direct education charities or by health charities that increase school attendance rates or conditional/unconditional cash transfers, and secondly whether education is the most effective means of delaying childbearing (rather than, say, improving economic conditions by improving health or offering cash transfers). I haven’t been able to find these kinds of comparisons unfortunately, but the WHO has some interesting guidelines and documents on preventing early pregnancy in developing countries. A disturbing fact from the WHO is that there were countries where about 1/3 of girls reported that their first sexual encounter was coerced, so reducing coerced sex seems to be a major issue here too.

Comments are closed.