The 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights was held from 8th to 12th February 2016, and hosted by Curious Minds in Ghana. The theme of the conference was “Realizing Demographic Dividend in Africa: the Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”.
The conference started with a two-day pre-conference programme consisting of The Youth Sexuality Institute, constituency meetings and capacity building workshops on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) 2016 was formally opened by His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana, at a colourful ceremony in Accra. Ministers of State including Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, attended the Opening ceremony. First Ladies accompanied the First lady of Ghana, Dr. Lordina Mahama, from Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Burkina Faso and Swaziland to grace the occasion to lend their support to the empowerment of young people by ensuring the respect of their Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights.
The President asserted that child marriages were obnoxious and needed to be stopped so that children, especially girls, can develop themselves and acquire skills that can help the betterment of the continent. Her Excellency Dr. Lordina Mahama, who is the Patron of the ACSHR 2016, asked all to increase their activities in providing young people with what they need and ensure that their support systems work well. She also insisted that young people excel when given the opportunity, and pointed to the hard work and achievement of the youth in Curious Minds that served as the local host organization for the Conference.
Delivering the keynote address, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund mentioned that education goes beyond literacy training. “Africa should give its young people right information, skills and opportunities to fulfill their full potential”, Osotimehin said. The Ceremony ended with a traditional dance from the Ghana Dance Ensemble.
The conference focused on Sexual and Reproductive Health of adolescents and youth sub-types including early, middle and late adolescents, adolescents and youth living with HIV, in conflict situations, and living with disabilities. It also focused on vulnerable, excluded and marginalized populations, sexuality education, youth-friendly services, forced/ early marriages, adolescent motherhood, abortions, gender-based violence as well as maternal morbidity and mortality. Various discussions were held and research papers were reviewed, which together contributed to the outcome paper for the conference.
The Conference also identified best practices for adolescents and youth sexual and reproductive health with a focus on effective responses to youth vulnerabilities. These include facilitating knowledge management and programming to enhance adolescents and youth agency, and adolescents and youth policies and programmes in regional and global development agendas. The Conference also proposed actions to promote adolescents and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights in the implementation of the ICPD Beyond 2014, the Post-2015 Development Agenda and Agenda 2063.
Over 1000 participants were brought together, comprising governments, adolescent and youth representatives, youth activists, civil society, the private sector, educational institutions, researchers, the media, United Nations agencies and other sexual Health and Rights development partners. The Conference ended on Friday 12th February 2016.
Author: Jacob K. Amengor, threesixtyGh Writer