India which is home to the largest number of adolescents in the world has an "incredible advantage" but also faces an "enormous challenge" of supporting its younger population, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on Monday.
Speaking at a function on 'Catalytic Partnership to Unleash the Power of Adolescents and Young People in India', Fore said scaling up flexible education options for people who have either dropped out of school can help in addressing the needs of adolescents in India.
She said collaboration of various stakeholders to explore new solutions based around the specific needs of adolescents in India.
She said India, like countries around the world, is faced with a critical challenge - which is also a critical opportunity: how best to support its growing population of young people.
"Every fifth person in India is between 10 and 19 years of age. 253 million people - one fifth of the population. That makes India home to the largest number of adolescents in the world. An incredible advantage - but also an enormous challenge," she said at a lecture on 'Catalytic Partnership to Unleash the Power of Adolescents and Young People in India'.
She said Indian adolescent groups are well-known for standing against child marriage and violence against children and for promoting education among the most vulnerable.
"For example, more than 1.5 million adolescent girls and boys across the country are part of the growing movement to end child marriage, and working with local authorities to make it happen," she said.
NITI Aayog in partnership with UNICEF India, took the lead in catalysing a national partnership of committed stakeholders - Yuwaah! - to expand socio-economic opportunities for India's young people, especially those from marginalized groups, according to a statement by the UNICEF.
This initiative comes close on heels with the launch of the global partnership - Generation Unlimited - at the UN General Assembly to get every young person into quality education, training or employment by 2030.
Speaking at another event on achieving total sanitation, Fore said India must put a particular focus on involving "children and young people in our work on sanitation. Young people not only represent the future of our world - they are powerful agents of change in their communities today".
"In Kabirdham district (Chhattisgarh), 138,000 students from over 1,700 schools wrote letters to their parents to request toilets to be built in their homes. The result? Sanitation coverage in the district increased by 25 per cent," she said, giving an example of impact upon involving young population in the sanitation drive in the country.
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