Adolescent health

Right now there are 200 million young people, aged 15-24, living in sub-Saharan Africa – they are Africa’s greatest asset. Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investing in young people’s health is vital to ensuring they reach their full potential.

Our take on the issue

Two thirds of adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa are sexually active by the age of 19. Half are married and 40% have children.

Young women and girls should be able to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and be able to act on these decisions. Yet, around eight million girls aged 15-19 cannot access much needed family planning advice or the contraceptive methods that they want. The risk of unintended pregnancy is high, especially in rural areas and among the poorest and most marginalised communities.

Providing young women with the contraceptives they need and want could reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by a third. This would be life changing; not only for themselves, but for their children and families. It also makes economic sense. If sub-Saharan African countries adopt policies that expand opportunities for young people, and invest in human capital, the combined demographic dividend would be $500 billion a year, for up to 30 years. That’s enormous!

40 million
unintended pregnancies
to adolescent girls
8 million girls
have an unmet need
for family planning

Global commitments

The African Union Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend emphasises the need for African countries to invest in their young people to create an empowered, healthy and prosperous generation.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health also explicitly positions young people as powerful drivers for change. Adolescent health is identified by the strategy as critical to improving health outcomes throughout life, as adolescents become adults and parents themselves. Young women need access to family planning and must be supported to participate at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life – as underpinned by Sustainable Development Goal 5.5 (SDG5.5).

birth rate
per 1,000 women aged 10-19

What mamaye is doing

MamaYe believes in the youth-led transformation of health services. We support young people to advocate for the quality services they need. And we’re asking those in power to allocate resources for young people’s health.

In Kenya, we’re helping young people become health-budget advocates – we’re arming them with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to demand the family planning services they want. We’re also encouraging young people to participate as active partners in the planning and monitoring of health service provision.

In Nigeria, we’ve trained young people to be ‘super-activists’ in MNH (Maternal Newborn Health), SRH (Sexual Reproductive Health), and community mobilisation and advocacy. The super-activists work in three States – Lagos, Bauchi and Gombe – and play a key role in tackling unsafe practices and beliefs among their peers and local community, to secure quality care in health facilities and increased budget allocation to the health sector.

In Malawi, we’ve supported community leaders and teachers to provide information on key MNH and SRH issues to young people, helping them develop confidence to discuss these issues with peers and elders.

We have the responsibility to hold policymakers accountable for reforming health systems in pursuit of universal health coverage (UHC), which will transform populations’ health and save women’s and children’s lives.
Thokozani Mbendera, Executive Director of
Family Planning Association, Malawi
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