The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has called for strong political commitment and support towards sexual and reproductive health education and services for adolescents and young people.
UNESCO, along with other stakeholders, made the call on Thursday in Abuja during a two-day stakeholders’ consultative meeting towards reinforcing education for healthy and thriving adolescence.
Mr Mamadou Sow, UNESCO officer in charge of its regional office in Abuja, in a remark, said that the organisation would review available data on young people affected by child marriages, adolescent pregnancies, HIV, sexual and gender-based violence with the aim of providing knowledge and skills that would enhance their wellbeing.
Sow stressed the need to invest in the education, health, employment opportunities and empowerment of young people, especially girls and young women, to enable them reach their potentials.
He said that UNESCO priotises the education, health and wellbeing of young people through its programmes, to enable them make informed decisions about their health, sexuality and reproduction.
“We want to reduce the number of new HIV infections, early and unintended pregnancies and improve access to sexual and reproctive health.
“We will stand with you to articulate factual and culturally accepted gender-sensitive actions for educated, healthy and thriving adolescents and young people in Nigeria in particular, and across West and Central Africa,” he said.
He said that adoption and implementation of the recommendations would improve the health and education outcomes, enhance advocacy and provide policy framework to strengthen and facilitate the scale up of reproductive health education programmes.
Prof Adesegun Fatusi, the National Consultant, said the recommendations were based on the country data in recognition of progress made as well as identifying areas of particular concern that needed immediate attention.
“We need to secure and sustain strong political commitment and support for adolescents and young people’s access to Family Life and HIV Education, and sexual and reproductive health services.
“We also support the delivery of accurate, rights-based and good quality Family Life, HIV education that provides knowledge, values and skills essential for safer behaviours, reduce adolescent pregnancy and promote gender equality.
“Young people are not problems to be solved; they are resources to be sheltered, supported, empowered and appropriately employed for improved population health as well as national economic well-being and development,’’ he said.
He added that access to effective FLHE and SRH information as well as contraceptives would empower young people to avoid early and unwanted pregnancies and thereby heighten their well-being and prolong their lives.
According to him, strengthening the evidence base on FLHE and safer school environments and integrating adolescent health into Primary Health Care would improve access to health services for adolescents and young people.
“Keeping girls in schools till completion of secondary schools is one of the nation’s best investments in its youth and a mechanism for investing in the future of young girls and making schools and community environments safer, healthier and inclusive for all learners,’’ he added.
Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, in her remark, decried the effects of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), harmful practices and poor access to education for women and girls.
Tallen stressed the need for parents to ensure their girl-child acquires education, urging them to treat both sexes equally without discriminating on any grounds.
“Focusing more on the issue of sexual and gender-based violence and violence against women and girls is part of prevailing issues to be addressed to ensure a healthy and thriving life for our young people,” she declared.
The Emir of Shonga, Dr. Haliru Yayaha, called on traditional, community and religious leaders to champion the cause of ensuring a healthy and thriving young generation so as to secure a future for the youths.
Ministers of health and education, who were both represented by Dr Salma Kolo and Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, stressed the importance of attending to the welfare of the youth because they were leaders of the next generations.
Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Dr Sunday Dare, listed early pregnancies and teenage motherhood, unsafe abortions, gender-based violence and rape as some of the health challenges facing young people.
Dare, represented by Mr Kabiru Mohammed, Deputy Director, Education and Youth Development, said that the ministry would continue to enlighten the youths on issues affecting them.