Grace Banda, a young lady from Zambia has called on African Parliamentarians to exercise their role in ensuring that the health concerns of Africa’s youth are prioritized.
“African countries must honor their commitments to the Abuja Declaration, as this will make tremendous improvements in the health sector, and more so those touching on adolescent and young people’s sexual reproductive health. As Africa’s youth, we urge our Parliamentarians to hold their governments to account on this pledge. They have the voice and the power to push for the realization of this commitment, as well as ensuring that other laws and policies touching on youth and sexual reproductive health are implemented in a timely and effective manner. Our African Parliamentarians are key to the achievement of Africa’s development goals, including the harnessing of the demographic dividend which calls for investments in youth,” said Ms. Banda, a 23 year-old Youth Action Movement (YAM) member from Zambia and an advocate against Child Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) among African girls.
She made these remarks while addressing members of the Forum of African Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FPA) during a side event ahead of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In April 2001, the African Union countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector and urged donor countries to scale up support. However, years later, many of these countries are yet to meet their targets. Parliamentarians can ensure that these commitments are implemented.
In her speech, Ms. Banda also called on Parliamentarians to assist in ensuring that adolescents and young people have access to age-appropriate sexuality information, and that they can be able to access reproductive health services in a youth-friendly manner.
“Many adolescents and youth make poor decisions about their sexuality because they lack accurate information. They are also not able to access contraceptive services because health service providers are not sensitive and accommodative to their needs. There are also many prohibitive policies that prevent young people from accessing these services, and which, if reviewed, will avert poor health outcomes among them such as teenage pregnancies, school dropouts and Sexually Transmitted Infections (including HIV) among others. We call on our Parliamentarians to push for the removal of such policies and development of supportive ones that will enable young people to live healthy and productive lives, which will be a great plus for Africa’s development,” she said.
Speaking at the same forum, IPPF Africa Region Director Mr. Lucien Kouakou, emphasized that indeed, Parliamentarians are instrumental in harnessing the demographic dividend, as they are greatly involved in the formulation of various policies and legislations that pertain to the country’s development.
“Parliamentarians have the capacity to influence their colleagues to push for the support and implementation of policies and legislations, especially those related to youth, health, population and development. They can call for more budgetary allocation to related Ministries, such as those of Youth, Gender and Social Affairs, Health, Education Planning and Development, as well as other institutions that focus on the youth and their reproductive health. They can also take the lead in seeking innovative ways of mobilizing resources at the local level that would champion population and related issues. Seeking African solutions to African problems through domestic funding is one way to realizing Africa’s development, and we count on our Parliamentarians to champion this cause,” he said.
Story by Maryanne W. Waweru, IPPF Africa Region.