The youth of Africa represent an untapped resource from which countries can reap enormous dividend if properly harnessed, we’re the words of the First Lady of Sierra Leone at the 19th General Assembly of OAFLA which had as its theme; Building on 15 years of engagement to harness the demographic dividend of Africa through promoting the needs of adolescents and their access to youth friendly health services.
Addressing colleagues and partner organizations, Mrs. Koroma paid tribute to the late Nigerian born former UNFPA executive director, Doctor Babatunde Osotimehin, calling him a great man and dedicated Civil servant with a record of diligent and effective service.
Drawing from her own experience working with young people in Sierra Leone, the First Lady reminded her colleagues about the delicate nature of transition to adolescence which often leads to Human Rights abuses, culminating to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, fatal abortions, child bearing and child marriage.
She attributed these consequences to inadequate information on reproductive health, adding that those able to find accurate information about their health and rights are unable to access the services needed to protect their health.
Mitigating against these factors needs investment in adolescents sexual and reproductive health information and services to ensure a healthy youth population, the First Lady reiterated.
Mrs. Koroma highlighted accurate, up-to-date and relevant sexual and reproductive health information and services to adolescents, an enabling environment devoid of stigma and discrimination, safe spaces for adolescents, comprehensive sexuality education in schools, and encouragement from family and community leaders for adolescents to use health facilities as actions that will promote the rights of adolescents.
The dialogue highlighted the need for adolescent friendly access to health services, and the urge to support the implementation of the AU roadmap to harness the demographic dividend, and for partners to coordinate their efforts towards harnessing the demographic dividend and support to oafla commitments.
The 19th General Assembly of OAFLA elected H. E Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, First Lady of Ethiopia to be OAFLA’s President for the period 2017-2019. Similarly, the First Lady of Burkina Faso, H. E Madame Adjoavi Siaka Kabore was elected Vice President of the Organization.