Reproductive health: First Lady pushes for policy shift in Africa

First Lady Jeannette Kagame and members of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development pose for a group photo in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday. Mrs Kagame is known for championing Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health in the country, through a series of programmes and activities. / Photo: Courtesy.

First Lady Jeannette Kagame has said that policy reforms, youth engagement and partnerships are key to enhancing adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health in Africa.

She was speaking at the 24th Ordinary General Assembly of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) on the margins of the 33rd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The 2020 theme for OAFLAD is, “Gender Equality and Women Empowerment: A Pathway to the Africa We Want”, and it speaks to the need to unlock potential for African women.

The First Lady said that child marriage, transactional sex, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual and gender-based violence, still persist.

Yet, it is known that these are taboos in societies.

“We should be concerned that growing gaps in parent-child communication, as well as limited access to Sexual Reproductive Health information and quality services are hindering our efforts to delivering the Africa we want, and that our youth deserve,” she said.

Mrs. Kagame shared Rwanda’s experience, saying the country declared Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health a national priority for its socio-economic development.

“Through a multi-sectoral response, and the support of partners, we invested in designing and implementing regional commitments, youth-friendly policies, legal and institutional frameworks, to preserve SRH rights,” she noted.

To complement the Government’s efforts, the First Lady’s organization, Imbuto Foundation has been at the forefront of enhancing Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health in the country, through a series of programmes and activities.

Mrs. Kagame highlighted, among others, projects like ‘Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights’ and Baho Neza Integrated Health Project, as well as Innovation Accelerator (iAccelerator) and First Time Young Mothers programmes.

A project like Adolescent and Youth Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights project, the foundation pairs schools and communities, with healthcare centres, to provide SRH knowledge and youth-friendly services through ‘youth corners.’

While a programme like ‘First Time Young Mothers’ programme, supports young mothers aged 10 to 19, from vulnerable backgrounds, to access maternal and newborn health services, counselling, as well as family reintegration, as they are often confronted with stigma.

The First Lady indicated that Africa needs to have the right policy and legal reforms, engage young people in the planning and delivery of SRH and rights services and information, as well as strengthen national and global partnerships.

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