There are major differences in adolescent sexual and reproductive health between West and Central Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa, and by country within those regions. Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) is, therefore, more of a public health issue in African countries that grapple with early sexual initiation and gender-based violence (GBV), low coverage of modern contraceptives, low sexual and reproductive health access and education, high HIV transmission, early childbearing, and child marriage.
Whether government officials and policymakers want to admit it or not SRH is the prevention of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and their treatment. Countries that fail to provide comprehensive sexual education and access to effective contraception are also likely to outlaw the abortions that mitigate unplanned pregnancies. The victims of the lack of preventative measures and their inevitable consequences are adolescent girls. Unlike their male peers, adolescent girls experience major involuntary socioeconomic, educational, physical, and environmental life shifts from unplanned pregnancies. Very little of the rhetoric acknowledge the rape and reproductive coercion involved in these unplanned pregnancies, leaving the responsibility and stigma solely on the shoulders of female children.
To disrupt poverty cycles and empower adolescent girls, more interventions towards accountable and equitable adolescent SRHR policies, legal frameworks, and services are needed.
“SHE SOARS” project
The Center for Reproductive Rights and other organisations are implementing a new program in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia with the support of Global Affairs Canada, and in a partnership with CARE Canada. The Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for Out-of-School Adolescent Girls project or “SHE SOARS” is looking to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of adolescent girls in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia, particularly girls who have dropped out of school.
The program will target informal urban settlements in Kenya, refugee and host communities in Uganda, and rural areas in Zambia to directly support over 240,000 adolescent girls, including over 200,000 out-of-school girls.
The project will address the lack of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and information in these areas by increasing the use of sexual and reproductive health services, improving the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services that respond to the needs and desires of adolescents, particularly girls and advocating for evidence-based, accountable and equitable adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights policies, legal frameworks, and services.
Activities towards this will include:
(1) Providing training and support on SRHR and life skills to adolescent girls;
(2) Providing training and support on financial literacy and entrepreneurship to adolescent girls;
(3) Building understanding and support for adolescent girls’ rights among parents, community leaders, men, and boys;
(4) Building the capacity of health care providers and health care managers to deliver appropriate and respectful sexual and reproductive health care to adolescent girls and boys;
(5) Building the capacity of youth groups and women’s rights groups to advocate for improved laws, policies, and services concerning adolescent SRHR. The project expects to benefit over 200,000 girls and young women between 10 and 19 years.
“Adolescents face significant barriers that undermine their sexual and reproductive health and rights—including lack of access to education and services,” said Enid Muthoni, Senior Vice President, Global Legal Program in a press statement. “We’re excited to be part of this seven-year project to improve girls’ access to essential reproductive services, empower them to make decisions about their own bodies, and make a lasting impact that improves their lives.”
Indirectly, the program’s activities are also expected to benefit an additional 16,000 girls and over 189,000 boys.