First Lady Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma has called for innovative solutions to the pressing issues of adolescent sexual and reproductive health that
we can take back to our homes.
She made this call during a high level event in the margins of the 71st UN General Assembly organized by the Organisation of African First Ladies in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund, Alere Foundation and International Plan Parenthood Foundation (IPPF).
Delivering her address as chair of the panel on the theme:
Improving the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescent Girls: The role of First Ladies
Mrs. Koroma expressed the importance of sustaining momentum in addressing the health related human rights of young people around the world today.
According to the First Lady, health is considered a fundamental human right and a key indicator of sustainable development, as poor health threatens educational and economic opportunities and impoverishes communities and countries. She noted that health issues are encapsulated as an SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) target, in goal 3:
To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Quoting Amnesty International USA, Mrs. Koroma said that all individuals have the right to a
healthy, safe, consensual and enjoyable sex life, to control their bodies and have sufficient accurate information to use in making decisions and seeking healthy behaviours; and to have affordable, accessible services that keep them healthy, not only when pregnant but before and after
On the consequences of lack of access or insufficient sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, First Lady Mrs. Sia Koroma explained that young people between the ages of 10-24 years, particularly girls, are vulnerable especially when it comes to lack of adequate sexual and reproductive health services.
She said that unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, maternal and child health mortality and poor health outcomes as well as risks of HIV/AIDS are the consequences.
She went on to explain that lack of SRH services impacts the ability of adolescents to complete their education, limits their access to gainful employment, impairs their capacity to take their own decisions and to have a voice in their communities.
Moreover, it has been shown that completing their education will allow young people to access information and knowledge that will help them to plan their families better, delay the start of their families and space births leading to quality of life
Highlighting the factors that contribute to lack of adolescents' access to SRH services, Mrs. Koroma pointed out that early or child marriage denies them the opportunity to access the right information, knowledge or resources to request SRH services, to prevent pregnancy, or take decisions about their sexual activities and their bodies.
She therefore underlined the need to utilise a combination of interventions to help improve SRH or health outcomes in young people between the ages of 10-24, and called for a coordinated, multi-sectorial approach to provide improved access to SRH services and better health outcomes for young people.Mrs. Sia Koroma went on to urge her colleague First Ladies to use their unique position to advocate for and influence the process of providing SRH services to Adolescent girls. She told a jammed packed hall of African First Ladies;
Many of us have already taken steps to combat issues such as teenage pregnancy and child marriage. Only last month, the Vice President of Sierra Leone and I launched the African Union's Campaign to End Child Marriage.
She further explained that in 2013, her office was part of the National Teenage Pregnancy Strategic launch which she rolled out at district level as well as organised annual camps with adolescent girls, regular summits to engage young women on their rights and empower them with knowledge and information.
Mrs. Koroma also encouraged her colleagues to focus on advocacy for education of girls, life skills to empower them, SRH information and services especially for adolescents boys and girls, community and parental education, influence the narrative of girls to highlight the positive aspects of womanhood, provide role models for young girls, and finally advocate for laws and policies to protect girls from harmful traditional practices such as child marriage.
This blog was written by Jarrah Kawusu-Konte.