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Youth Day 2010: Our year, our voice

Speaking of the issues in Nigeria today, there are lots of developmental challenges that are affecting young Nigerians amongst which is the limited access to…

Speaking of the issues in Nigeria today, there are lots of developmental challenges that are affecting young Nigerians amongst which is the limited access to reproductive health information and services. I speak for one as a young Nigerian, are we saying there are no solutions? Are there no models that have worked in our country that we can replicate? Or is there no way to make information on reproductive health more accessible? How much investments have our government really committed and spent on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) through our national budget other than the ones we get from international donors to fund and support our programming? Most importantly, how have we involved young people in creating the solutions we seek taking into cognizance the fact that addressing the issues through funds committed and sincerely spent can only sustain the future of a nation like ours.

At 15, l feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to be aware and get the right information and exercise my right to know but to millions of girls of my age, the rights to correct information and services have become a luxury especially when most are married off by this age! Imagine a lot of young Nigerians’ are not even aware of their reproductive health rights and roles and those that are aware don’t have the opportunity to exercise them (youth participation).

Young people are sexually active any way, and we contribute to high teen pregnancies, particularly in girls involved in early marriages, who do not have the opportunity to speak up for their rights. High rates of unsafe abortion, sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, and unreported sexual violence, like rape is not uncommon and they add to the numerous reproductive health challenges that we face.

So l ask myself, is it not much better to educate and provide accessible services to young people so we can all make informed decisions thus, making us more productive and discharging our energies in the right channel? This is not to say government has not done anything, but we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is.

This is our year. Starting from now, government needs to listen to us more, give us the opportunity to participate in policy formulation and implementation processes.

It is time our adult partners engage us more in discussions about ‘us’ and also learn about the way we feel to build mutual trust. We know the issues, we know what works, and let us do the right thing. Every bit of money well spent and not for selfish purposes, we are only investing the future of our nation and several generations to come!

Karen Gager, EVA’s Youth Advocate Group member lives in Abuja

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