AfricaAfrican Youth Leaders Tell UN: We Are Force for Change

AAYP Press Release

African youth activists called on the international community Wednesday to view the 220 million young people on their continent as a positive force for change, not a problem requiring solutions.

“We must change the narrative about African youth to become a narrative of collective, positive actors, among the most informed, the most resilient generation of Africa,” said Aya Chebbi, the African Union’s special envoy on youth.

The growing youth population is often viewed as a potential time bomb for the continent, as governments struggle to provide education and good jobs to the millions of young people seeking a better life. Recruitment by armed groups and migration away from the continent have increased, as the root causes of hopelessness are not adequately addressed.

Youth envoy Chebbi, a Tunisian national who had large cutouts of African continents dangling from her earlobes, told the U.N. Security Council that negative narratives can be dangerous.

“It is disempowering,” Chebbi said. “Many young people have internalized the idea that they are marginalized and now see these violent groups as legitimate fighters, not perpetrators of violence. So we have to value our youth and their contribution to society; they will look for recognition elsewhere if we don’t.”

“If the right investments in youth are made, and their social, political and economic engagement recognized and nurtured, societies may reap a peace dividend,” said the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa Bience Gawanas.

She noted that across the continent the youth are demanding urgent action and are making their voices heard.

“From Algeria, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe, young people are at the center of pro-democracy movements, effectively mobilizing, organizing, leading and clamoring for inclusive and accountable governance, youth participation and economic opportunities for all,” she said.

Wednesday’s Security Council debate was convened around the African Union initiative to ‘silence the guns by 2020’ and end conflict on the continent. It coincided with the International Day for Non-violence.

“We want youth to give up the guns, but can we answer the big question in the mind of a 19 or 20 year-old: Who am I? What are we offering them?” Youth envoy Chebbi asked.

Hafsa Ahmed, 27, joined the meeting via a video link from Nairobi, Kenya, where she is a co-founder of the NGO Naweza.

She said African youth face “deep rooted obstacles” to meaningful participation in peacebuilding efforts, which are traditionally the domain of the older generation.

“When young people are involved and brought to the table, it is often tokenistic and our needs and interests are often reduced to issues of education and employment, when we actually have diverse needs as youth — and the capacity to contribute to the biggest challenges facing our communities and our world,” Ahmed said.

Ugandan activist Victor Ochen recounted how many of his dreams were ruined because his childhood was spent in an internally-displaced persons camp. He told council members via video from Kampala that he made the conscious decision not to be recruited at a time when young boys around him were targeted.

“I was pondering whether picking up the gun to fight was the way to go, but something in me kept on telling me war is not option, you need an end to suffering, picking up the gun will only escalate suffering,” Ochen said. “I chose peace.”

At the age of 13 he started a peace club in the IDP camp to discourage recruitment of child soldiers. He later went on to found the African Youth Initiative Network to transform trauma into an opportunity for leadership and build peace.

“I can say it is very difficult for something good to come out of a life of conflict,” he said.

He urged governments to improve the quality of life for their citizens, address inter-ethnic issues and called on the international community to abandon sanctions, saying they do not work against the state as intended, but affect ordinary people.

Source VOA

Youth are valuable assets that need protection – //Hoebes

By (Aletta Shikololo)


Namibia’s young people, who make up the majority of the country’s population, should be regarded as human capital assets that the country has to protect, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Christine //Hoebes has said.

Speaking at the breakfast meeting with the diplomatic community and international organisations on Wednesday, //Hoebes said the youth are regarded as the agents of change, the future and an inspiration.


“Across the globe we are seeing the youth taking responsibility for their future and holding us accountable for the decisions we make today. Closer to home, the Namibian youth are advocating for social justice and an opportunity to make a difference. It is in this context that we’ll discuss the UN Youth Agenda and how it relates to the Namibian and African youth agendas,” she said.

“Ours is to work together (among ourselves and to work together with the youth) to present the youth with opportunities to allow them to continue to work towards enhancing sustainable development and the attainment of Vision 2030,” she said.


The meeting was also aimed to provide an overview on the status of youth, building on the recent SADC Ministers responsible for Youth and the United Nations Partnership Framework (UNPAF), for further cooperation on the youth agenda.

In her opening remarks, United Nations Resident Coordinator Rachel Odede said the closed-door meeting would discuss issues related to the youth.


‘The youth are our leaders of tomorrow, and they are multipliers of sustainable development,” she said.

Quoting UN Secretary General António Guterres when he launched the UN Youth Strategy last September 1, Odede said: “If we are to create a more peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world for all to fulfil the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we need young people to lead.”


She said it is against this background that through maximising collective comparative advantages, “we hope to propose a way forward on this important agenda”. Odede expressed strong appreciation to the government and the diplomatic community for making quality time to join the UN system in Namibia to collectively deliberate on the issues at hand.

“We very much value the dedication and efforts to ensure that no one is left behind and our commitments towards achieving the Agenda 2030 are implemented in a timely, efficient and effective manner, for the benefit of our people,” she said.


The meeting was attended by, amongst others, presidential advisor: Youth Matters & Enterprise Development, Daisry Mathias and the National Youth Council (NYC) chairperson, Mandela Kapere.

Rights Groups Worried About The “Enslavement” of Youths In Eritrea, Months After End of Conflict

By Lionel Tarumbwa

Young Eritreans continue being forced into indefinite national service. Human rights groups and the UN continue to be worried that the government has no plan to end its conscription plan two decades after it started.

In March 11th, 2019 statement, international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Eritrean government to roll out a timeline for the dismantling of the compulsory national service that has been conscripting young Eritreans since its seceding from Ethiopia in 1995.

It has been months since a peace deal was signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia ending two decades of conflict yet youths in Eritrea are still facing compulsory “national service.” This is despite the fact that Asmara promised the last recruits to national service that it would last no more than 18 months at the time of the signing of the peace agreement.

Although the initial pretext for conscription no longer exists, the statements that it will be disintegrated are probably only political rhetoric, says Fisseha Tekle, a human rights researcher on Eritrea and Ethiopia for Amnesty International.

“For the last 15 years, they were blaming Ethiopia. That excuse is no longer there, so it is high time for them to stop this scheme.”

Activists and human rights groups have condemned and compared the national service to “legislative slavery.” The recruits live under tough conditions, earning only a pittance (reported to be less than US$60 a month) and continue to be isolated from family and friends under inhumane conditions.

At its inception in 1995, the national duty was supposed to last no more than 18 months in an effort to rebuild the country after a 30-year conflict for independence. However, when a border dispute broke out with Ethiopia in 1998, Asmara introduced indefinite service with several recruits having been in the service for almost 20 years.

Eritrean teenagers in their last year of high school are transferred into a military camp before going straight into six months of military training after graduating high school. If one is lucky enough to score good enough grades, they might attend college and be given a civilian role. But the only way out is to leave the country. In its own report, Amnesty International quotes students who have come to view the education system as a trap that leads them straight to the jaws of a system to which there is no escape.

In its statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council, HRW says, “Conscripts continue to be used for commercial projects, as well as military and civil duties. Their pay remains inadequate and reports of abuses, including torture, persist. This Council’s Commission of Inquiry labelled Eritrea’s national service “enslavement.”

It is not uncommon for several members of one family to be recruited all at once and posted to different parts of the country. The return of a member of a family may often feel like one is returning from the battlefront. The conscripts often spend months away from their family and there have been reports that most are denied official leave to visit their families. A special UN Commission of Inquiry report in June 2016 stated that “crimes against humanity have been committed in a widespread and systematic manner in Eritrean military training camps and other locations”.

Young Eritreans continue to leave the country, taking the treacherous journey, a trek through valleys of death, at the risk of being charged with treason if the escape bid fails. Hoards of them often find themselves on the shores of Libya in a bid to make the deadly and dangerous voyage through the Mediterranean. According to UN figures, as many as 5,000 Eritreans flee each year in search of greener pastures.

Image Credits: Madote

Source The African Exponent

Zimbabwean youths take part in kick-the-ball global peace event

By William Milasi

ZIMBABWEAN youths last Saturday took part in a “kick the international ball of peace”, a sports based global event held to emphasise the power of sport in fostering unity and building peace across physical, mental and emotional borders.

The event was organised under the auspices of Generations for Peace (GPF), a “peace-through-sport” organisation recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

Various communities in the country participated in the international event.

The Jordan based non-profit making organisation has a history of using sports based games to empower youths to build peace and transform conflicts across tribes, religions, races, ethnicities and nationalities.

GPF engaged over 500 youths in nine countries with “Get the Ball rolling 2019,” an international series of football games that united diverse youths to celebrate International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP).

Seventeen simultaneous matches Saturday began across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

In Zimbabwe, the events took place in Harare, Zvishavane and Kwekwe.

Mark Clark, Generations for Peace CEO, said the event acts as a catharsis for youths who have been scarred by the effects of violence.

“Generations for Peace believe in the enormous potential of youth to lead positive change in their own communities and in the power of sport as a universal language to unite those who are faced with division and violent conflict every day.

“As part of our long-term programming in these communities, Get the Ball Rolling 2019 was an opportunity to reflect the values of Generations for Peace and to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace in a truly global sense.

“Across nine countries and three continents, the simultaneous football games involved not just our trained pioneers, volunteers and participants, but also engaged local community members, demonstrating these values and encouraging anyone to build peace and pass it on,” he said in a statement from his Jordan base.

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is an annual day recognised by the UN and celebrated its sixth year on Saturday, 6th April 2019.

The day serves to raise awareness of the potential of sport to contribute to global objectives for development and peace due to its vast reach, unparallel popularity and foundation of positive values.

The organisation is founded and chaired by HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein and is dedicated to sustainable peace building and conflict transformation through sport, arts, advocacy, dialogue and empowerment.

Zimbabwe GFP Pioneer Ephraim Katongo said Zimbabwe has for a very long time experienced serious violence amongst the youths.

He added that the peace event help youths to deal with the country’s volatile situation.

“Zimbabwe has for many years faced challenges when it comes to social cohesion and transforming violent conflicts among youths.

“Get the Ball Rolling 2019 was a great opportunity to address to address those challenges and many others around the world, providing a safe space through sport where local youth could unite, crossing mental and emotional borders they face every day and recognizing that they are not alone. This event, like all Generations for Peace programmes, highlighted the power of youth to lead us toward a more peaceful feature, if we only provide with them with the opportunities and empowerment they need to do so,” he said.

In addition to its renowned Sport For Peace programming, the organisation also uses arts, advocacy, dialogue and empowerment tools, addressing challenges of gender inequality, post-conflict trauma response and reconciliation.

Source New Zimbabwe

Libya, UN discuss support of Libyan youth

By Xinhua

Officials of the Libyan office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday said it will boost plans to empower and support young women and men across Libya.

“We met on Monday with the Head of the Youth and Sports Authority Bashir Al-Qantari to agree on strategic plans for 2019 to empower and support young women and men across Libya,” UNFPA said in a statement.

UNFPA will soon launch a UN Youth Working Group in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with the aim of creating a more effective youth programming, the statement said.

Due to years of armed conflict and political instability, Libyan authorities have been struggling to meet the needs of the young people, mainly by providing employment opportunities and proper education.

According to UNICEF, unemployment currently stands at 48 percent among youth in Libya.

Source Xinhua

Nigeria: Youth unemployment, Africa’s biggest problem – (UNEP – EBAFOSA)

The United Nations Environment Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (UNEP-EBAFOSA) has said the biggest problem Africa is facing today, especially Nigeria, is youth unemployment, which requires about 11 million jobs every year to engage the unemployed.

The regional coordinator, United Nations Environment Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA), Dr. Richard Munang, stated this at the UNEP-EBAFOSA Nigeria policy harmonisation meeting for implementing the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), and Climate Action, in Abuja, stressing that Nigeria presently huge unemployment via unfriendly policies.

Despite this reality, he regretted that Nigeria has continued to creating more unemployment by importing such items as tomato paste worth $360 million every year.

His words: “But at the same time, Nigeria is losing N9 billion every year as a result of post-harvest losses. Nigeria is importing tomato worth $360 million every year. That means Nigeria is importing unemployment to add on top of the unemployment that she got.”

On the importance of their engagement with other government ministries, agencies and parastatals, the UNEP regional coordinator said: “The importance of this policy harmonisation for climate action coordinated under the UN Environment Framework for Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly is actually to help Nigeria implement its climate obligations in such a way that opportunities can be created for the youth.

“If you look at Nigeria today, Nigeria is losing food as a result of post-harvest losses worth $9 billion every year. This is loss not just in food but also of incomes and opportunities, especially for youths; because, as we are speaking today, Nigeria needs to create 11 million jobs every year to be able to absolve unemployed youths in the country.

“But the question is, where do these jobs come from? They can come as a result of expanding the entire agro-value chain, which is the only area you can create job opportunities for youths.”

In the same vein, the president of EBAFOSA-Nigeria, Mr. James Oyesola, said the youth needed to be engaged now more than ever before amid rising unemployment.

He stated that youth unemployment rate in Nigeria has steadily been on the increase, rising from 9.8 per cent in 2008, to 13.41 per cent in 2017.

Quoting the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Oyesola pointed out that, out of 85.08 million people in the active workforce in Nigeria, 16 million were unemployed in most of 2017.

According to Oyesola, Nigeria has about 98.3 million hectares of arable land of which 72.2 million hectares are cultivable, which is about 23 per cent of arable land across all the West Africa.

He, however, regretted that only 34.2 million hectares was cultivated, with over 53 million Nigerians remain undernourished and majority of Nigerians (65 per cent) remain food insecure.

Source The Sun

Kenya: We’ve made being youth a crime

By Boniface Mwangi

My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones during the senseless DusitD2 terror attack. And to those still nursing wounds, I wish you a quick recovery.

Our nation is traumatised, and we need to have an honest conversation about why we are a frequent target of these attacks. Kenyan troops have been fighting in Somalia for eight years. Over 1,000 soldiers have died, many more maimed, but their sacrifice was in vain. No one, apart from their families, remembers them. It is a great honour to die for your country but pointless to die for no cause. Our presence in Somalia has no exit strategy. The soldiers are on an indefinite ghost-chasing mission.

The troops have been called out by the UN for colluding with al Shabaab to smuggle sugar and charcoal. The truth is, while the infantry is not involved in the smuggling, their bosses are. The generals, and their political benefactors are conducting business in Somalia. They acquire tenders to supply our troops with food, water, fuel and ammunition.

A Kenyan MP held a press conference a few years ago to say he had a list of terrorist funders. That a politician and his Northeastern cartel ran a contraband smuggling ring from Kismayo to Kenya. They also helped Somali warlords invest money in Kenya. Terrorists have hit Kenya many times and a number of the people who have carried out the attacks were either Kenyan or led by Kenyans.

Young, desperate Kenyans who feel they have no stake in the country have been radicalised. Unless you’re rich or famous, your life is of no value. Youth in Nairobi’s ghettos are hunted by police and put down like rabid dogs. We have outdated colonial laws that allow police to arrest you for ‘loitering’, not carrying an ID, being drunk and disorderly, dumping, etc. All these offences are used by police to extort and detain young people.

When young people take to the streets to protest injustices, they’re teargassed, beaten and sometimes shot dead. When they go to the streets to take pictures, they’re arrested and accused of shooting pornography. When parents fail to teach their children values and high school children are found in bars, police are called instead of the school counsellor.

We have criminalised being youth. Killer cops under the direction of the Director of Criminal Investigations and Inspector General are allowed to execute suspects. It is only economically disadvantaged suspects who are executed. Suspicion alone is enough to get you killed. Young men coming of age in the ghettos of Nairobi cannot wear bling because the police arrest and kill young people who wear bling or are ‘too smart’ Even the way you’re dressed can get you killed.

Our neighbourhoods have no playgrounds, no social centres, no public libraries, mainly because most of the grounds where they would have been located have been grabbed. Food prices are controlled by cartels. Public transport is run by cartels. Our water gets rationed, because cartels own water supply trucks.

In a country where majority of the people are dishonest and where young people think that corruption isn’t bad if you don’t get caught, it is very easy for someone to become radicalised. A terror outfit like al Shabaab offers comradeship and a misguided sense of belonging that Kenya sadly doesn’t offer many young people. Our associations revolve around tribe, drinking groups, betting and WhatsApp groups.

What can we do? Those with money can support grassroots and neighbourhood groups working to make their community better. Those with time, volunteer and work with young people and give them hope. Change will not come without risks, and we must take those risks to get a better Kenya.

We need to direct our anger to the political class and demand better. We must work together or perish as fools. If we don’t change our ways, our young men will keep joining gangs and terrorist groups. The political class will keep working with terrorists, and soon we will not have a country. We must all decide at a personal level what our contribution to nation building will be to forge a better Kenya for our children and all those who will come after us.

Source The Star

Report: 36 Million Poverty Hit Children In Ethiopia

An estimated 36 million of a total population of 41 million children under the age of 18 in Ethiopia are multi-dimensionally poor, says a new report by a government agency and the UN agency for UN children.
The report indicated that the children are deprived of basic goods and services in at least three dimensions. The report studied child poverty in nine dimensions – development/stunting, nutrition, health, water, sanitation, and housing. Other dimensions included education, health related knowledge, and information and participation, according to the study conducted by the Central Statistics Agency and UNICEF.

The study, “Multi-dimensional Child Deprivation in Ethiopia – First National Estimates,” finds that 88 per cent of children in Ethiopia under the age of 18 (36 million) lack access to basic services in at least three basic dimensions of the nine studied, with lack of access to housing and sanitation being the most acute.

Given their large population sizes, Oromia, Amhara, and Southern regions are the largest contributors to multi-dimensional child deprivation in Ethiopia.

These three regions jointly account for 34 of the 36 million deprived children in Ethiopia, with Oromia having the highest number at 16.7 million, SNNPR at 8.8 million, and Amhara at 8.5 million. Regions with the lowest number of poor children are Harar at 90,000, Dire Dawa at 156,000, and Gambella at 170,000.

“We need to frequently measure the rates of child poverty as part of the general poverty measures and use different approaches for measuring poverty. This requires all stakeholders from government, international development partners and academic institutions to work together to measure, design policies and programmes to reduce child poverty in Ethiopia,’’ said Mr Biratu Yigezu, Director General of Central Statistics Agency.

The report adapted the global Multi-Dimensional Overlapping Deprivation Analysis (MODA) methodology and used information available from national data sets such as the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Surveys of 2011 and 2016. MODA has been widely used by 32 countries in Africa to analyze child well-being.

The methodology defines multi-dimensional child poverty as non-fulfilment of basic rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and concludes that a child is poor if he or she is deprived in three to six age-specific dimensions.

The report’s findings have been validated through an extensive consultative process involving the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth, National Planning Commission, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs together with the Economic Policy Research Institute, among others.

“Children in Ethiopia are more likely to experience poverty than adults, with distressing and lifelong effects which cannot easily be reversed,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia’s future economic prosperity and social development, and its aspirations for middle income status, depend heavily on continued investments in children’s physical, cognitive and social development.”

The study reveals that there are large geographical inequalities: 94 per cent children in rural areas are multi-dimensionally deprived compared to 42 per cent of children in urban areas.

Across Ethiopia’s regions, rates of child poverty range from 18 per cent in Addis Ababa to 91 per cent in Afar, Amhara, and SNNPR. Poverty rates are equally high in Oromia and Somali (90 per cent each) and Benishangul-Gumuz (89 per cent).

Additional key findings from the report indicate:

High disparities across areas and regions of residence in terms of average number deprivations in basic rights or services.

For example, the differences in deprivation intensity (average number of deprivations in basic rights and services that each child is experiencing) between rural and urban areas are significant; multi-dimensionally deprived children residing in rural areas experienced 4.5 deprivations in accessing basic rights and needs on average compared to 3.2 among their peers in urban areas;

Although there has been progress in reducing child deprivation, much more remains to be done. The percentage of children deprived in three to six dimensions decreased from 90 per cent to 88 per cent between 2011 and 2016 and the average number of deprivations that each child is experiencing decreased from 4.7 to 4.5 dimensions during the same period.

Most children in Ethiopia face multiple and overlapping deprivations. Ninety-five per cent of children in Ethiopia are deprived of two to six basic needs and services, while only one per cent have access to all services. Deprivation overlaps between dimensions are very high in rural areas and among children in the poorest wealth quintiles.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Speed up investments to reduce child poverty by four per cent each year for the next decade if Ethiopia is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on poverty reduction;
  • Accelerate investments in social sectors prioritizing child-sensitive budgeting at the national and regional levels to enhance equality and equity; and
  • Improve collaboration among different social sectors to ensure that the multiple needs of children are met.

Source Newbusinessethiopia

Cameroonian youth tasked to be Ambassadors of peace

Some 200 young men and women drawn from across the ten regions of Cameroon have been called upon to be ambassadors of peace in their various localities.

The call was made during a conference organised by the Universal Peace Federation in Yaounde aimed at sensitizing young people on the importance of promoting the virtues of peace and Nation building.

According to the Country Director of Universal Peace Federation, Edwin Ondoa, the forum is geared towards inspiring youth positively so they can make a difference in their localities. Selected from various schools, homes and private sector, the forum gave the youth the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the need to live in unity and harmony, as they exchanged ideas and showed their unity in diversity.

The workshop is taking place at a time when administrative officials are kick starting preparations towards the celebration of the youth day on February 11.


Rwanda: Save children from having children

My country is overwhelmed with teen pregnancies. In 2013, the United Nations Population Fund estimated that Guyana had the second-highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in South America and the Caribbean, with 97 of every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 giving birth. Five years later, little has changed.

Today, some 42 per cent of Guyanese young people are sexually active, 29 per cent do not use condoms during sex, only 15 per cent say they are familiar with birth-control methods, and 56 per cent of sexually active young people have contracted a sexually transmitted infection. Furthermore, 12 per cent of Guyanese girls have sex before their 15th birthday, and 62 per cent say they have an unmet need for contraception.

When adolescents cannot obtain condoms and other forms of birth control, the rate of unplanned pregnancies increases, health outcomes suffer, and young people are unable to reach their full potential. To avoid these trends, and to reverse them where they exist, countries must strengthen their health-care systems and ensure that every teenager has access to sexual and reproductive-health services.

One of the biggest obstacles to reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancies is the lack of sex education in schools. In Guyana, the government’s Health and Family Life Education program was meant to address this shortcoming. But only a handful of secondary schools offer the curriculum, and those that do typically avoid topics that would contradict the Ministry of Education’s abstinence-only policy. As a result, most teachers fail to educate students properly about safe sex.

Another challenge in Guyana is the services gap between coastal regions and the country’s interior. The country’s hinterlands suffer from a lack of health facilities, which further limits adolescents’ access to information about safe sex, contraception, and neonatal care. Not surprisingly, rates of teenage pregnancies and maternal mortality are highest in the interior.

The shortage of rural clinics partly reflects a dearth of qualified health-care workers. To maintain basic care for a country’s population, the World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 22.8 skilled health professionals for every 10,000 people; universal coverage requires at least 34.5 workers per 10,000 people. In Guyana, however, there are only 11.4 health workers per 10,000 people, a staffing shortfall that affects every aspect of the health-care system.

Finally, Guyana is a socially conservative country, and biases about young people’s sexual activity pervade health care and domestic life. Some nurses prefer not to provide girls with contraceptives, while many parents believe that talking about sex will only encourage sexual behavior. This, together with the lack of sex education in schools, leaves Guyanese teens with few places to turn for advice before becoming sexually active, or to find help when they become pregnant.

These obstacles can be surmounted, and Guyana can lower its rate of teen pregnancy. But it will require significant changes in how Guyanese think about and address the issue of adolescent sexual activity.

For starters, Guyana must implement comprehensive sex education and work to ensure that teachers have been trained to provide unbiased data and information. Adolescents must be made aware of what services are available, and parents and community members must be encouraged to support the provision and expansion of these programs.

Moreover, communities need to increase access to contraceptives and other sexual-health services; one way to do this would be to revive or establish youth-friendly spaces and centers where information can be shared. These spaces should be open after school and on weekends, staffed by knowledgeable, sympathetic adults. Special attention must be devoted to rural regions and people with special needs, an often-overlooked segment of the youth population.

These reforms are essential to improve the life prospects of Guyana’s young people. If more teenagers had access to sex education and contraception, fewer girls would have their lives interrupted by pregnancy. Only by empowering women and girls with the resources to control their reproduction will the grim statistics that have long burdened Guyana – and many other countries – begin to change for the better.

The writer is a medical doctor, a recipient of the 120 Under 40 award for leadership in family planning, and a member of Women Across Differences, a Guyanese non-profit organisation that works to empower women and girls.

Copyright: Project Syndicate.

Source The New Times