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Youth

Adolescents and Young People who realize their full potential

3 out of 10 Peruvians are adolescents and young people (between 15 and 29 years old), more than 8 million in total. They are a creative and transformative force that has enormous potential to boost the economic and social development of the country and contribute to reducing poverty and inequality. To ensure their well-being and capitalize on this valuable resource, it is essential to guarantee them the opportunities and the necessary tools to develop their full potential.

Our Challenge

This means ensuring that they remain in school and that they receive a quality education that includes aspects related to personal development and sexuality, facilitating their access to sexual and reproductive health information and services when they need them to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, ensure violence-free environments, and supporting them to achieve a successful path to adult life.

Related strategic result of the IX Country Program of UNFPA and the Peruvian State: Laws, policies and programs address the health and sexual and reproductive rights of adolescents and young people.

Poverty:

In the last fifteen years, extreme monetary poverty has been reduced by less than half in the adolescent and young population between the ages of 15 and 29, as in all other age groups. However, 1 in 5 young people is still poor.

There is a higher proportion of adolescent and young women who experience monetary poverty compared to their male peers. By place of residence, it is young people in rural areas who present the highest levels of poverty, especially adolescents between 15 and 19 years of age (SENAJU, UNFPA 2016).

Sexual and reproductive health:

In Peru, the beginning of sexual life is earlier and earlier, and 15 out of 100 adolescents are mothers or have been pregnant. At the national level, one in 14 women has started their sexual life before the age of 15; and in the Jungle, one in five (UNFPA estimates based on ENDES). 7 out of 10 young Peruvian women (67%) do not use a condom in their casual sexual relations. Among adolescent girls, there is 44% who have not heard of and are unaware of the symptoms of STIs (SENAJU, UNFPA 2016).

However, the access of adolescents and young people to sexual and reproductive health services, which include information and contraceptive methods for those who require it, is still limited. This increases the risk for this population of contracting sexually transmitted infections and of having early unplanned pregnancies.

Adolescent pregnancy:

Pregnancy and motherhood during adolescence limit the development opportunities of thousands of Peruvian adolescents. It carries a greater risk to their health and life, decreases their possibilities to continue their education, affects their potential to obtain a well-paying job and can trap them in a life of poverty and exclusion.

15% of Peruvian adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 are or have been pregnant (INEI 2016). The most vulnerable are those who live in poverty, have low levels of schooling, live in rural communities, in the jungle or speak an indigenous language. Teen pregnancy in these groups ranges from 20 to 38%. That is, in some areas of the country, 1 in 4 adolescents is a mother.

Maternity in adolescent girls:

Pregnancy poses a greater risk for adolescent girls because they are not physically, emotionally and psychologically prepared for motherhood, and they can present health complications that can even end their life or that of the newborn.

Every day, 4 Peruvian adolescents under the age of 15 become mothers (INEI, MIMP and UNFPA 2016). The highest records of mothers under 15 years of age occur in the Jungle and in the departments of the North Coast of Peru. In the vast majority of cases, the partners were men of legal age.

This reality responds to factors related to the lack of opportunities and low self-esteem, as well as situations of abuse, coercion and violence. For this reason, it is essential to make the situation of adolescent girls visible and guarantee them timely information, services and support.

Education:

Peru today has the largest and most capable generation of young people in its history. This population has the lowest illiteracy rates (1%). In the last five years, there has been an increase in their attendance in secondary and higher education, a trend more pronounced in the case of women (SENAJU, UNFPA 2016).

However, a quarter of adolescents aged 15 and 16 do not attend secondary education, and attendance in higher education remains very low. Furthermore, 17% of young people between the ages of 15 and 19 do not work or study, and the majority are women (INEI 2016).

Comprehensive sexual education:

A quality education that prepares children and adolescents for life is a necessary condition to eliminate poverty, reduce inequalities and achieve greater social inclusion. This requires integrating the learning of competencies and skills that allow students to make responsible decisions regarding their sexuality, so that they can prevent situations that put their future at risk, such as diseases, violence and early pregnancy.

9 out of 10 people of legal age, and a similar proportion of students, want comprehensive sexuality education to be provided in Peruvian schools (UNFPA and UNESCO 2016). Faced with this need, progress has been uneven, and in many schools these issues are still not addressed. However, the new National Curriculum, approved in 2016, includes among the 11 learnings that each schoolchild must develop by the end of their school education, those related to comprehensive sexual education.

Violence:

The potential of Peruvian youth is often undermined by the lack of opportunities and situations of violence. 7 out of 10 women between the ages of 15 and 29 have suffered psychological, physical or sexual violence (INEI 2016). Less than half of the victims sought help from someone close to them and less than a quarter went to an institution, a proportion that decreased substantially among younger adolescents.

According to statistics from the Criminality Observatory of the Public Ministry, the highest number of registered victims of femicides are young women and adolescents, murdered in the vast majority of cases by a partner, ex-partner or close relative.

Participation:

When young people and adolescents express their ideas and participate actively in the various areas of their lives, they exercise their citizenship and prepare to be agents of change. In recent years, youth leadership and participation in the promotion of their human rights has been strengthened through advocacy and political coordination platforms that have allowed them to place their priorities on the public agenda. Despite these advances, the challenge of deepening and consolidating them persists.

In the last regional and district elections, more than a quarter of the candidates were young (above the legal requirement of 20%, known as Youth Quota). In contrast, only 6% of the authorities and officials elected in the same elections were young, and among indigenous candidates, only 2% reached one position (SENAJU, UNFPA 2016).

The Opportunity

This is the most numerous, educated and interconnected generation of adolescents and youth in the history of Peru. Investing in it today is a unique opportunity to ensure the human capital necessary to sustain the development and economic growth that the country has been achieving.

Peru is currently going through a demographic transition, characterized by a higher proportion of the population in productive ages, compared to the proportion of the dependent population (under 15 and older adults). This stage, called "demographic bonus", favors society having greater opportunities to generate resources and stimulate its development, driven by the production, savings and investment of this population. 

However, it also requires greater investment and preparation to face both the current growing demands for investment in youth, as well as the emerging demands to meet the needs of the older adult population that will continue to increase.

Our Strategy

UNFPA, as the lead agency of the United Nations system on the issues of adolescence and youth, contributes to expanding the access of young people and adolescents to sexual and reproductive health services focused on their needs, to comprehensive sexuality education, and to information and contraceptive methods for those who require it.

To do this, it strengthens the capacities and the development of skills of young people and adolescents so that they have a meaningful participation in public life, a strong voice in the discussion of issues that affect their well-being and integral development, and so that they contribute from their different visions and perspectives to the development of the country. In addition, it seeks to promote, through technical and political advocacy, investment in opportunities that allow adolescents and young people to develop the knowledge, skills and resilience necessary for a healthy, productive and full life.