The 9 th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR 2020) kicks off on Monday, February 10, with a two-day pre-conference focus on youth. The event will be held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi, with the main conference following immediately after from February 12-14.
The pre-conference is a space for young people from across Africa to gather and discuss specific issues of concern to their sexual health and rights. It aims to harvest the experiences and knowledge of participants towards building a collective continental position on how to address the special circumstances affecting Africa’s youths.
This event is founded on data that highlight the need for solutions tailored to address the current
challenges affecting the African youth with regard to sexual health and rights.
“Africa Youth Trends”, a study by the Africa Alliance of YMCAs (AAYMCA), shows that the biggest health concerns for young people are consequences of early and unprotected sex (49 percent) including unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and STIs. Other concerns are alcohol, drug abuse and mental health. Young people also identified the internet and peers as influencers of their sexual behaviours.
While 72 percent of the youth in Africa prefer living in urban areas according the study, many of them end up being victims of uncontrolled urbanisation. They dominate urban slum dwellings after taking up low paying jobs that expose them to sexual exploitation and emotional harm.
The study also shows extensive evidence of risky sexual behaviour among the youth. About 27 percent of male and 26 percent of females aged between 15 and 19 reported having had sex before 15 years.
Most of the World’s adolescent motherhood occurs in Africa, where about 19 percent of young women become pregnant before the age of 18.
Studies by UNFPA and WHO show the high risk associated with adolescent pregnancies, including low infant birth weight, obstetric fistula and high maternal mortality ratios. These are most prominent in low income settlements and urban slums. Yet sexual health and rights are basic needs that everyone should have access to.
“We are not equal until all of us are equal,” says Dr Esiet Uwemedimo, Convenor of the 9 th ACSHR. He adds: “The circumstance of your birth or location must not determine your future. It is the failure of State and all of us that young people, especially from informal settlements, have continued to lack access to sexual health care services and critical information.”
Discussions at the pre-conference will be guided by the various sub-themes of the main event, these being: Accountability; voices; breaking the cycle; leave no one behind; innovation; and technology.
The youth recommendations will thereafter be presented at the main conference for consideration by the policy organs of the African Union Commission and relevant Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
The 9 th ACSHR is hosted by the African Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) Trust – a not-for-profit organisation that advances gender equality through research and action on women’s human rights.
GEM’s strength lies in working with marginalised women and adolescent girls in and out of school, and who are living in low resourced areas. It champions their sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organisation also works with sex workers and women living with HIV.