Improving access to sexual and reproductive services for young people.
Young people’s Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) is an integral part of their total wellbeing, as such, it needs to be hugely prioritized. In a conservative society like ours, sex education is frowned at and believed to lead to increased sexual behaviour. However, sexual health education enables young people to make informed decisions regarding their sexual health and rights.
According to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey, the median age at first sexual initiation among women is 17.2 years, while 19% of women age 15 -19 have begun childbearing, 14% have given birth, and 4% are pregnant with their first child. This survey also reported that young people who initiate sex at an early age are typically at higher risk of becoming pregnant or contracting a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) than young people who start sex later.
All these statistics point to the need for a more aggressive and targeted SRHR programming towards adolescents and young people in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID 19 pandemic restrictions, lockdown and realities of the new normal, young people, especially girls, were faced with hindrances to access quality SRH information and services; as a result of scale down/closing of SRH management services, SRH staff diverted to fulfil other needs, women and girls living with perpetrators, fear to go to health facilities for SRH services etc. This was evident in the increased reporting of rape, sexual assault, sexual coercion, teenage pregnancy and dropout of children from school during the period by the Lagos State Ministry of Health SRH unit in October 2020.
We are in a digital era, and young people are the primary drivers of this era, from the innovators to the users. This digitization has come to stay and is evident with the rapid introduction of innovations in agriculture, education, health and more. That said, young people seek digital media for reasons ranging from news & information, social connection & communication, and advocacy & advertisement.
An Engaging Type Of Digital Media;
Social media is a routine activity that research has shown to benefit young people by enhancing communication, social connection and even technical skills. Social media offers multiple opportunities to connect with friends and people with shared interests. Thus a large proportion of communication and information sharing on several topics, including SRH related between young people, occurs through mobile phones and other computer devices.
Therefore, it is strategic to incorporate this platform and digital tools into SRHR programming to meet the SRH needs of young people and develop a working SRH plan and policy for young people that enables them to access needed information and services irrespective of their location.
The Youth Amplify Project
The Amplify change program, #Youthamplify SRHR champions, is designed to increase awareness and uptake of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and products amongst young people in tertiary institutions in Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Oyo States, Nigeria. This project seeks to leverage the power of digital media, especially social media to create awareness about SRH among young people and inform them of available SRH services in each state and how they can access such services. To this end, out of 120 students who had applied and shown their interest in becoming an SRH champion, 100 were selected and trained across the tertiary institutions. We have trained them on the components of Sexual and Reproductive Health, creating SRH promotional content such as short videos, graphics, and developing relevant and youth-friendly SRHR information that will increase young people’s awareness of their sexual health rights and access youth-friendly centres.
SRH rights and full availability of the associated human rights are at the core of young people’s transition into adulthood and reasonably influence their health and life outcomes. Therefore, there is a mandatory need to support and uphold these rights to prevent it’s negative impact. Young people need to be educated, healthy, free from STIs and HIV, and not exposed to violence, unintended pregnancy or unsafe abortion regardless of their identity.