Let Girls be Girls and Not Mothers

inno2By: Inunonse Ngwenya; YWCA of Zambia. Inunonse attended the 6th African Regional Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and she now shares her views. 

“In every woman there is great potential to excel in life. Womanhood is a phase where young girls cross over to become adults and responsible citizens of society.”

Women in Alternative Action (WAA) the host Organisation invited and were honoured to invite participants to the 6th African Regional conference on Reproductive health and rights held in Yaoundé Cameroon on February 3rd – 7th, 2014.  The theme for the Conference was ‘Eliminating Women and Girl’s sexual and Reproductive health Vulnerabilities in Africa’.

The objectives of the conference were as follows:

  • To identify promising and best practices at eliminating women and girls reproductive health vulnerabilities
  • To facilitate knowledge management and programmes to enhance development agency
  • To Enhance women and girls programmes in the regional and global development agenda, including ICPD Beyond 2014 and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are usually understood as the rights of all people regardless of their nationality, age, sex, gender and health, including HIV status, to make informed and free choices with regard to their own sexuality and reproductive well-being on the condition that these decisions do not infringe on the rights of others.

For whatever reason, it happened to me and it can happen to anyone else.  Being forced into early marriage by my parents will not allow me condemn myself to suffer for the rest of my life. I believe this information can inspire many who are in the same difficult situations in their lives. People give up in life because the lack inspiration – never should any young mother give up because along the way they will meet amazing people who will make their dark day bright.

We came to know that as young leaders of the movement our role and aim is to work together to shape a better tomorrow. People will have no incentive to change their lifestyle towards sustainability unless they are first made aware of their own problems which exist, their own role in perpetuating these problems, and their potential contributing to the solutions. We have existing environmental processes that help individuals to:

  • Acknowledge the existing environmental problems and recognise their role in them
  • Understand the links between their everyday actions and the lives of other people
  • Identify positive actions they can take

In many parts of Africa considerable gender inequalities remain which play a role in jeopardising women’s rights and access to SRHR. High levels of mobility and mortality are attributed to a shortage both in breadth and quality of SRH services which are usually easily preventable problems in developed countries. Youth remain at risk and require both school and out of school based family and sex education. Young women require access to information on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV counseling and testing, psychology and medical treatment related to sexual violence.

Youths are quite obviously a key population for SRHR services and thus this indicator is an excellent measure of what the future will hold for adults in the region with regard to SRHR. Young people are the backbone of our countries and as a young leader I believe that the most effective approach to improving women’s sexual and reproductive health is to integrate all services contraception, maternal health care, counseling, safe and legal abortion, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, under one roof.

 Women and girls need compassionate care for a variety of health concerns. We also believe that young people need age appropriate, friendly programmes with accurate information about their health and integrate human rights and gender equality. Policies and implementation must make this a reality.

The burden of HIV and AIDS continues to be a major public major health problem with profound implication, besides the vulnerabilities of women and girls to HIV as compared to men, remains particularly high in most regions. These relate to poor sexual and reproductive health decision making, lack of access and ability to use modern contraceptives methods, economic dependence, illiteracy and poor political decision power.

As young women and young people we recommend that:

  • We be included in the decision making and implementation process at all levels because we have a better understanding of our problems and priorities; We shall continue to claim our spaces in these important meetings and conferences;
  • We have spaces before these international conferences to share our agendas with our leaders.

To conclude development will not be sustainable unless it originates from the concept of local development based on the efforts of the local population who respect priorities that they themselves define.