Four in ten people alive today are under the age of 25. That means that children and youth comprise roughly 42 percent of the world’s population. A majority live in low- and middle- income countries, nearly half of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. This concentration of young people has ignited policymaker interest in unlocking the so-called “demographic dividend,” or the potential for greater economic returns when a young generation is positioned to thrive.
Policymakers and development practitioners often focus on assets and opportunities that young people must be equipped with to contribute meaningfully to the communities and society around them. However, an often overlooked success factor is personal empowerment, or the ability of young people to make and act on their own decisions regarding crucial life choices, such as education, employment and family formation. When youth have the agency to make key decisions for themselves across all aspects of their lives—from health, education, marriage, family planning, household expenditures, and beyond—they are more likely to grow into successful, healthy adults.
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