The President/CEO of the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), Professor Oladapo Ladipo, delivered a goodwill message at the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) Launch of the State of the World Population Report 2016. The event was held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, on 25th October, 2016.
Below is the full text and full video of the goodwill message.
It is with great pleasure that I bring to you this goodwill message at the launch of the 2016 State of the World Population (SWOP) report with the theme – Investing in supporting 10-year old girls: What is at stake?
This theme is again very timely at this crucial period because there has been series of wake- up calls for all countries to recognise that young people are at the heart of achieving the 2030 SDG agenda with greater priority dedicated to young girls aged 10-19years. This theme again should be of great interest to us as a nation given the Nigeria’s demographic profile which is made up of young population with approximately 45% of our population being below the age of 15yrs.
The age 10 is a critical age when symptoms and signs of puberty emerge with physical, emotional and psychological changes that coincide with the period when young girls are transiting from primary schools to secondary Schools in Nigeria. This is the period when they are confronted with developmental challenges, many drop out of school, forced into early marriage and consequently have to face a lifetime of inequality and servitude compounded by complications of teenage pregnancies.
Why are girls under 10 years significant to contributing the attainment of SDGs- Girls make up the major foundation of all societies as they would grow up and eventually birth generations to come, but first they must be supported to grow in the best way. All hands must be on deck to enhance girl-child education to provide them the opportunities to make informed choices in life and to live a productive life. Therefore governments at all levels must develop and implement strong policies to achieve this goal. Every individual should make efforts to see that girls in their community are well educated, as this will have a positive impact on their future and that of their families.
Young people are sexual beings with unique and diverse sexual and reproductive health needs. Most importantly amongst these needs are youth friendly services and sexuality education, the provisions of which is based on young people‘s sexual rights. Access to qualitative youth friendly healthcare in all communities, especially underprivileged communities is a sine-qua-non to ensure good health and physical wellbeing of the girl-child that will enable her to concentrate and focus on her education. They should be well informed, supported and empowered in their decisions relating to general health, sexual health and reproduction as well as career goals.
Again, this theme should be of great interest to us as a nation given the fact that, If we do not program for young people in a more strategic way, the likelihood that we will record any tangible attainment of improvement in our vicious cycle of poverty and poor health indices will continue to be a mirage.
Let me reiterate again my message to our Government, like I have done during my Goodwill Message at the World Population celebration that “early marriage and childbirth which is responsible in part for girls drop out of school must be discouraged, and government officials must speak up, join the advocacy and do everything within their powers to discourage and legislatively ban early marriage”.
I also want to continue to advocate that our Government must recognise the opportunity cost for many families, especially the poorest of the poor, the cost of sending a girl to school seems like an extra burden, especially when schools require even nominal direct and indirect fees, hence to get more girls in school and remain in school- Education for girls and boys must be free to secondary school level with increased focus and support for the girl child. For many who drop out of school, the only legacy they have for their many children is poverty.
Against this background, there should be very strategic commitment at all levels and from all stakeholders here present.
I sincerely congratulate UNFPA for organising this Launch of the flagship report on state of the World Population as it will serve as the needed platform and impetus to increase the awareness of all stakeholders on the critical issues required towards investing in supporting the future of the teenage girls.
Prof. O.A. Ladipo FRCOG,OON
President/CEO, Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH)