The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo has called for the need for a resolute and cooperative leadership comprising the family, community, educationists, health professionals and religious leaders in Africa to help in addressing adolescent reproductive health on the continent.
This according to her, would “certainly position Africa to achieve its demographic dividend”.
The First Lady made the call at the 19th General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/ADIS (OAFLA) organised on the side-line of the 29th AU summit under the theme ‘‘Building on 15 years of engagement to harness the demographic dividend of Africa through promoting the needs of adolescents and their access to youth-friendly health services”.
The First Lady was speaking on the topic “Should adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health information and services be the responsibility of health and education leaders or family and community leaders?”
Africa, she said has the highest fertility rate in the world of about five (5) births per woman and asked “What will our cities look like in the next 30 years if we fail to make the needed investments for adolescents to have easy and user-friendly access to information and services for sexual and reproductive health and rights?”
She said “there will be an unsustainably high increase in the population with consequent destabilizing high unemployment rate, poverty, illiteracy and crime. Our food security may be threatened”.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said in many parts of Africa, including Ghana, adolescents are often ill-informed and ignorant about their rights adding that often, they also lack access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
This she said had become possible, due the fact that the family and community, which traditionally are the primary institution for socialization, are inhibited by cultural taboos or ignorance when it comes to educating the youth about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Also, she said even where services are available there are barriers that make it difficult for adolescents to access the services and gave an example where health service providers tend to be judgmental in their dealings with adolescents; thinking that it is the morally depraved adolescent who accesses these health facilities.
She added that in some cases, health facilities may not be equipped to provide adolescents with the services they need and may also not be ‘user-friendly’ to the adolescents with the educational system and religious institutions sometimes not provide the needed comprehensive education to enable young adults to protect their health, well-being and dignity.
She said because of these challenges, many adolescents lack the knowledge required to make responsible and informed decisions and choices concerning their Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) leaving them vulnerable and prone to practices, which result in unsafe abortion, child marriages, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
To help solve these challenges, she called on everyone including the family, community, health, educational, traditional and religious leaders to work in a concerted, sustained, collective and collaborative manner to help provide adequate information to the adolescents and youth to help them make informed choices.
She enumerated some of the initiatives and efforts being undertaken to include the hosting and launch of the United Continental ‘‘All In’’ Campaign which aims at finding solutions to end adolescent AIDS and promote the involvement of adolescents in decision making regarding their SRH and rights.
Ghana she said the launch has revised its National Adolescent Reproductive Health Policy (NDRHP) which according to her had led to an improvement in access to user-friendly Clinics.
She said queen mothers, traditional rulers and religious leaders have also been involved in promoting the well-being of the south adding that steps have been taken to mainstream life skills and reproductive health and rights education in the countries educational system saying that “this gives us cause to be optimistic about achieving the demographic dividend that will eventually impact positively on our national development”.
Credit: Office of First Lady