Lydia Asamoah, GNA
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 9, GNA - The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo says a more resolute and co-operative leadership is needed from all stakeholders to help address adolescent reproductive health challenges in Africa.
She said families and communities, as well as educationists, health professionals and religious leaders in Africa needed to play key roles in finding solutions to the many adolescent reproductive health challenges on the continent.
Addressing the 19th General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV and AIDS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mrs Akufo Addo said it was 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.
She said if that was not done, the current unsustainably high fertility among young women on the continent may lead to high unemployment rate, increased poverty, illiteracy and crime as well as food insecurity.
The 19th General Assembly was held 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 noted that in many parts of Africa, including Ghana, adolescents were often ill informed and ignorant about their rights and often, lacked access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
This, she explained was due to the fact that the family and community, which traditionally were the primary institutions for socialisation, were inhibited by cultural taboos or ignorance when it came to educating the youth about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
She said even where services were available there were barriers such as judgmental health service providers who tended to think that it was the morally deprived adolescent who accesses these health facilities.
She indicated that in some cases, health facilities may not be equipped to provide adolescents with the services they needed and may also not be ‘user-friendly’ to the adolescents with the educational system and religious institutions sometimes failing to provide the needed comprehensive education to enable young adults protect their health, well-being and dignity.
Mrs Akufo Addo said because of these challenges, many adolescents lacked the knowledge required to make responsible and informed decisions and choices concerning their Sexual and Reproductive Health leaving them vulnerable and prone to practices, which resulted in unsafe abortion, child marriages, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
She has therefore 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 however, enumerated some of the initiatives and efforts being undertaken at the continental level 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.
The first Lady said since the launch, Ghana had revised its National Adolescent Reproductive Health Policy that had led to an improvement in access to user-friendly Clinics.
She said queen mothers/ traditional rulers and religious leaders had also been involved in promoting the well-being of the youth.
She said steps had been taken to mainstream life skills and reproductive health and rights education in the countries educational system.
“This gives us cause to be optimistic about achieving the demographic dividend that will eventually impact positively on our national development,” she added.