The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has called for a resolute and cooperative leadership from families and communities as well as educationists, health professionals and religious leaders in Africa to help address adolescent reproductive health challenges on the continent.
The First Lady made this call while addressing the 19th General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/ADIS (OAFLA) organised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 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”.
She noted that it is incumbent on African countries 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 else with our current unsustainably high fertility among young women the continent may experience high unemployment rate, increased poverty, illiteracy and crime as well as food insecurity.
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 is due to the fact that the family and community, which traditionally are the primary institutions 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 noted that even where services are available there are barriers such as judgemental health service providers who tend to think 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 providing the needed comprehensive education to enable young adults 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 since 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”.