A culture of silence and denial surrounds the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in Nigeria and their issues are not addressed with the seriousness they require.
The almost 50 million people aged 10-24 in Nigeria face many challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services; the prevalence of contraceptive use is low and unplanned pregnancies tend to result in abortions which are unsafe due to severe abortion laws. In spite of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS estimating that 60% of new HIV infections occur amongst young people and a high sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevalence rate of 40%, advocacy on youth sexual and reproductive health and rights issues in Nigeria is generally weak and youth participation is low. Most young people lack the skills and knowledge to engage with lawmakers on issues that affect their sexual health and rights at the national and state level.
Laws and policies geared towards improving sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Nigeria are created and adopted with very little youth participation in the development, implementation and monitoring of these laws and policies. If this is not addressed, such laws and policies will most likely fall short of realizing their objectives which in most cases is to improve the overall Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) of Nigerians, in particular, the youth. Therefore, it is imperative that young people’s advocacy skills and competency be strengthened to enable them effectively engage with decision makers on their SRHR.
With funding from AmplifyChange, EVA is currently implementing the Youth Sexual Health and Rights Alliance project. The project aims at strengthening the capacity of young people, to enable them engage in SRHR advocacy that targets decision makers. The purpose of the alliance is to create an informal coalition of young people and youth-focused NGOs in order to advocate for increased commitment on the part of the government to push for adolescents and young people’s SRHR through policies and allocation of funding. This coalition is being managed by EVA.
EVA is working with Girl’s Power Initiative, Kids and Teens Resource Center, and caRENGO in Cross River, Ondo, and Kaduna states respectively to implement the project. We will be working with the organizations and youth advocates to carry out advocacy in Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health (ASRH) and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
Each organization has participated in capacity trainings facilitated by EVA; each organization will in turn train 10 young people who will form a youth advocacy group in these states. The organizations will support the youth advocates as they routinely engage decision makers on SRHR in their respective states.
“The capacity training was eye opening as it exposed us to some tactics of advocacy which we didn’t know was designed to help us make our demands known and implemented by the target policy makers” – Roseline, Kids and Teens Resource Center.
“When young people are empowered, the world can go to rest. The trained YAG members are energetic, idealistic and committed to championing the cause of SRH in Ondo state” – Martin-Mary, Kids and Teens Resource Centre.
EVA is providing technical support for the three organizations to carry out their advocacy activities.
By the end of this project, EVA is confident that there will be a stronger, more effective Nigerian youth SRHR movement that is able to successfully advocate for progressive laws and policies that affect young people. Also, that the alliance as a whole and the state level youth coalitions will be recognized by decision makers and other CSOs as strong advocates and partners for improved SRHR policies and services. In addition, the capacity of the young people would be improved to participate in policy influencing.
“Young people have been informed that they can have a say in their Sexual and Reproductive Health. They now know what their roles can be in policy-making and how they fit into policy making.” – Godwin, CUSO.
The project will use capacity building and evidence gathering to implement all activities which will directly contribute to achieving these outcomes.
Moving forward, “we are optimistic that at the end of this project, we should have achieved the objectives and ensure that the government is accountable and committed to improving the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people” commented Patrick – Team leader, Advocacy and Policy Influencing