The 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health RIGHT has been closed in Accra by the First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama and President of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS.
The three-day conference saw 12 First ladies from Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali and Cote D’Ivoire. Others are from Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Chad, Sudan, Madagascar and Mozambique and over 700 participants across the African Continent.
The conference which was on the theme, “‘Realizing Demographic Dividend in Africa: the Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” was organized by First Lady of Ghana and President of the Organisation ofAfrican First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) in collaboration with Curious Minds, Ghana, an organisation of young advocates and youth in broadcasting.
Closing the conference, the first Lady noted that if Africa would successfully overcome problems such as teenage pregnancies, child marriages, maternal and child morbidity and mortality, it would go a long way, towards raising healthy young leaders, for Africa’s continents development. “The earlier we are able to do this the better it will be for our future as a people.
Africa, will no more allow its productive young people to die needlessly and pre-maturely from preventable diseases.
Africa will not allow its young people, to be immobilized by cultural practices that no longer have any relevance” she stated.
It is time that we raised our advocacy efforts, to completely stop these negative practices that affect the health, growth and self-esteem of our children.
As we forge ahead, towards the attainment of the 90-90-90 HIV Fast track targets, by 2020,and the Strategic Development Goals, we must ensure that no young person is left behind.
She pledged as president of the Organisaton of African First Ladies to do everything in her capacity, to get her fellow first ladies to rally around, and save adolescents from the devastating effects of HIV.
She challenged participants to contribute meaningfully towards translating issues deliberated at the conference into action plans back home.
Minister for Gender and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, said there was the need for African countries to put in place effective public policies, which can take advantage of the demographic dividend. These policies she noted must promote investments, which will help the young people to be more productive during their working years.
“These policies must address issues of education and health; nutrition and infrastructural development which address productive investment and inclusion of the youth. Promoting a healthy sexuality, marriage and childbearing among younger people is the sure way of ensuring the reduction of the proportion of non-productive dependents,” she stated.
Nana Oye, indicated that Government was addressing adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights because it knows they are critical for overall national development. Adding that, they have thus become a priority for the Ghana Government.
What this Government has done therefore is to use policy and social protection programming to address sexual health and rights, thereby reducing poverty to achieve the SDGs.
“To improve sexual rights among women and address stunting in children, we have introduced LEAP 1000 a cash transfer programme in the Upper East and Northern Regions. More than 6000 pregnant women or families with children below two years living in poverty are being supported with cash grants.
The Gender Minister urged African youth to be diligent as you go back to your respective countries. “Hold the key to the future of this continent. Leaders of this continent are more than poised to set the stage for you to bring about real change” she stated.
Curious Mind Ghana, an organisation of young advocates and youth in broadcasting at the end of the conference issued a communiqué. In the Communique, they called on governments of Africa to ensure dignity of all making sure the rights of adolescents are protected and respected.
They also called on them to invest in the rights and capabilities of adolescent and youth and also strengthen national Population data system. African Union, UN and Developed partners must engage the young in their organizations in shaping development assistance, support countries etc.
Communities and traditional leaders were also urged to examine and remove all traditional and cultural practices particularly those associated with initiations. The Private Sector should work with government and civil society to strengthen the national education at all levels.