A global campaign is using the power of social networking platforms like Mxit, Facebook and Twitter to empower young people to demand sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Around the world, the leading cause of death of girls and young women 15 to 19 years old is pregnancy and childbirth.
There are also 60-million child brides worldwide, a number expected to increase to 100-million within 10 years.
Every day, about 500 000 young people, mostly young women, are infected with a sexually transmitted infection other than HIV. Meanwhile, young people, 15 to 24 years old, account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
Other facts include: only 17% of sexually active young people use contraceptives; 2-million girls are genitally mutilated every year; and more than 200-million women do not have access to the modern contraceptives they desire.
Against this backdrop, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has launched the 15and Counting campaign on social networking platforms, urging young people around the world to call their governments to task and demand action to improve their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) where 179 governments agreed on a 20-year programme of action to improve the sexual and reproductive health of everyone – forming a critical part of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. With only five years remaining to meet their commitments, many governments are failing to make progress against these goals, particularly in meeting the needs of young people.
Dr Gill Greer, director-general of IPPF, comments: "Those born in 1994, when governments all over the world made their commitment, are now 15 years old and have needs, desires and expectations that the world seems unprepared to address.
"It is completely unacceptable that the health and wellbeing of more than 1,5-billion young people is being jeopardised for want of political and financial commitment. Governments have failed to prioritise the sexual health services, education and information young people need to lead healthy, safe and empowered lives; it is critical they review the promises they made and to accelerate programmes to meet the needs of all young people."
The 15andCounting campaign is asking people all over the world to sign the "Count Me In: Sexual Rights for All" petition to demand better access to sexual health services and education for everyone, which will be presented to the United Nations in October.
It is being delivered on the ground in 176 countries worldwide by IPPF's Member Associations. As well as spreading the message on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the campaign will include the instant messaging application of MXit to encourage petition signatures via mobile phones for young people without Internet access.