According to the United Nations definitions of different groups of young people, 'adolescents' are those between 10 and 19 years old and 'youth' includes everybody between 15 and 24 years old.
More than 1.5 billion people in the world are between the ages of 10 and 25. This largest-ever generation of adolescents is approaching adulthood in a world their elders could not have imagined. Globalization, the AIDS pandemic, global warming, electronic communications and a changing climate have irrevocably altered the landscape.
UNFPA promotes and protects the rights of young people. It envisions a world in which girls and boys have optimal opportunities to develop their full potential, to freely express themselves and have their views respected, and to live free of poverty, discrimination and violence. To achieve this, UNFPA works across sectors and with many partners to:
- Empower adolescents and youth with skills to achieve their dreams, think critically, and express themselves freely;
- Promote health, including by giving them access to sexual and reproductive health information, education, commodities and services;
- Connect young people to livelihood and employment programmes;
- Uphold the rights of young people, especially girls and marginalized groups, to grow up healthy and safe to receive a fair share of social investments;
- Encourage young people’s leadership and participation in decisions that affect them, including the development plans of their societies.
Youth aged 10–24 make up almost one-third of Egypt’s population. Enrollment in all levels of education has increased for both girls and boys in the last decade, but slightly fewer girls than boys attend school at every level. Also, regional disparities show higher school enrollment of girls in urban areas than rural areas, and in Lower Egypt than Upper Egypt. Young men make up most of the adolescent labour force, but young women have much higher rates of unemployment.
Marriage is socially important and children are of paramount importance for couples when they first marry. In 2000, young women ages 15–24 contributed nearly 800,000 births to Egypt’s total fertility. The legal minimum age of marriage in Egypt has recently changed to 18 years, although the median age of marriage for women is 20.6 (DHS 2008).
Contraceptive use has risen for all married women (from 47 percent in 1992 to 60 percent in 2003) and for married youth, the DHS report indicated that less than 1 percent of childless women where using a contraceptive method at the time of the survey. Meanwhile, unmet need for family planning has declined by more than half among young women 15–24 and is currently about 8 percent (DHS 2008). The median age of mothers at first birth is 22.4 (DHS 2008).
Egypt's overall policy environment for Reproductive Health with regard to youth and adolescents has been continuously improving, although not yet enabling enough for young people. Egypt’s constitution provides for the protection of mothers, children, and youth and guarantees the right of women to medical, physical, psychological, and social healthcare.
Egypt’s population policy explicitly addresses young adults only through provision for healthcare for girls prior to marriage and premarital exams and counselling. Most Reproductive Health services are only available to married females, although reproductive health services cover issues related to the whole life cycle
Reproductive Health for youth applies to a huge variety of comprehensive services and access to information. Matters such as harmful practices, should be addressed from local institutions to government, from family and peers to schools, and from the youth to the elders. For instance, despite the legal ban on female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), it is still practiced widely; 90.1 percent of females in Egypt have had FGM/C (DHS 2008).
However, Reproductive and Sexual Health education is not received at schools and the only source of information for young people is usually their peers and families. The School Health Insurance System does not systematically include reproductive health care for students, and no comparable programme exists for out-of-school youth. RH services cover not only family planning or other issues related to young married couples; it also covers issues such as those related to menstruation, malnutrition and answering any questions asked by young unmarried people.
The youth programme in partnership with government and NGOS enables UNFPA to understand the context in which youth and adolescents have to grow up, in order to better advocate for youth-friendly policies.
UNFPA Egypt and its partners support young people in maintaining good Reproductive Health. Most programmes implemented take young people as a cross-cutting issue, while others target young people specifically. Some of these programmes are:
- Youth-Friendly Services in different governorates, in partnership with the Egyptian Family Planning Association. Based on peer education and supported by specialized physicians clinics provide services for young people. Peer-to-peer education has proved to be a successful methodology to reach the youth, their families and to better understand their environment.
- Youth-Friendly centers implemented by the General Organization of Teaching Hospitals and Institutes. The centers provide counselling, especially pre-marital counselling, to young people. It also makes referrals or provides medication where necessary.
- The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood implements a comprehensive adolescents’ health peer education programme in 11 governorates. The project includes an information package delivered to young people at middle school.
- The Supreme Council of Universities, the National Population Council and Demographers Society is in the process of implementing an educational programme on population issues in three universities.
- Y-PEER is a network of organizations working in peer education that currently involves 40 NGOs in 14 governorates. Y-PEER provides trainings in peer education, a tool kit containing more than 10 tools for peer education programmes and a networking opportunity.