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.
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