The Millennium Development Goals have been the central reference point for global development efforts and have had success in drawing attention to poverty as an urgent global priority. Though the world has made progress towards achieving the MDGs, more can and must be done, especially with regards to addressing the needs of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights of young women and girls.

The Importance of Adolescent SRHR

Unintended pregnancies — particularly among girls and young adolescents — are among the root causes of current high rates of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality. Too many pregnant women around the world are still girls, as a result of a lack of access to modern, safe and effective means of family planning. Girls and young women are more likely to give birth to low-birth-weight babies.

Access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a key element to the fight against poverty. According to UNFPA, some 222 million women who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy lack access to effective family planning. Nearly 800 women die every day in the process of giving life. About 1.8 billion young people are entering their reproductive years, often without the knowledge, skills and services they need to protect themselves.

Despite these glaring facts and the harsh reality, most young people lack the information and resources necessary to make healthy choices, including protection against HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and the development of healthy relationships. The health and social-economic consequences of teenage pregnancy are enormous. Early parenthood is likely to affect educational achievements with significant employment and socio-economic ramifications, while health complications for both teen mother and her unborn child or infant child are very high.

 

Recommendations

As young women and girls at the 2014 PMNCH partners meeting we recognise that healthy populations, particularly women, children and young people are at the centre of sustainable development and that increasingly evidence shows that healthy well being in adolescence shapes the entire life course of individuals.

We therefore, call on all members attending the PMNCH Partners’ forum to within their efforts, reflect the following youth and adolescent priorities in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

  • Fulfil the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people by ensuring continuing and comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education, comprehensive access to contraception and safe and legal abortion services by eliminating le legal, social and economic barriers that prevent women and girls from accessing their sexual and reproductive health;
  • Commit to end all forms of discrimination and violence and particularly to eliminate harmful and unethical practices affecting young women and girls including forced child marriage, girl pledging and female genital cutting;
  • Increase investments in social, political and environmental determinants of young people’s health these include secondary education, youth unemployment, nutrition security, social exclusion, including income inequality, sexual diversity and gender equality.
  • Allow for meaningful youth engagement not only the designing but also the implementation of health programs and policies aimed at improving health outcomes

Felogene Anumo is the Advocacy Programme Associate at FEMNET.  Connect with her @felogene or at prog-associate@femnet.or.ke

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