The 7th Africa conference on sexual health and rights ; reduction of maternal mortality to achieve demographic dividend in Africa

Article By Mageda Esolyo,

Maternal mortality is a contentious issue in Africa.  Gestation be should be a happy and joyful period of a woman’s life especially when it is a planned pregnancy and yet we still loose many women and girls to sepsis, post partum hemorrhage, complications during delivery and unsafe abortions.In the age where medical care has made advances and breakthroughs, this should not be the case. Every day in 2015, about 830 women died due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth globally.

On the 8th to the 12 February at the 7th Africa conference on sexual health and rights held in Accra, Ghana had various discussions on realizing demographic dividend in Africa. There were a myriad of conversations that were held on how we would achieve demographic dividend in Africa with a particular focus on adolescents and youth.  A major take away was to invest in our youth. In Africa, we have almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24; Africa has the youngest population in the world. And it keeps growing rapidly. The number of young people in Africa will double by 2045. Key would be to invest in the youth with knowledge. Knowledge of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and rights.

Our cue should be taken from the SDGs( our global development blueprint for the next 15years) where SDG target 3.1 aims for maternal mortality reduction: “by 2030 reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births specific maternal health indicator.

In a concurrent session on maternal mortality, the Elephant in the room was the particular issue of unsafe abortions in Africa and how they increase the rate of maternal mortality in the continent. We had various case studies and contextual ideas on ways to reduce maternal mortality. Cited  was the reduction of accessing of safe abortion services provided in south Africa due to lack of proper information band how in Ghana rate safe abortion access is seen to have increased if there is positive male partners support. In Kenya, the use of telecommunication and online platforms “Aunty-Jane Hotline” to used disseminate safe and reliable information on sexual and reproductive health to women to aid in their sexual and reproductive decision inclusive of safe abortion information was also included. Read further on Sex, cell phones and Social media in Kenya.

From the Session there was a realization that the youth access digital platforms to access knowledge on any matter currently and the trend is rising. That being said there is a critical importance in using technology that is mobile and digital technology to address a myriad of issues that plague our societies pertaining to sexual and reproductive health.We can resolve to use these online platforms to speak on reduction of abortion stigma, negative masculinity, retrogression of negative Cultures practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in our society.

Digital platforms have also proven to be good areas to disseminate important and crucial information on contraceptives and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health due to confidentiality attached to the platforms.

Youth should endeavor to use digital platforms to advance advocacy and  challenge Africa to speak up on these issues that seem to be contentious but are still root causes of lack of development on our African continent. It has worked for maternal health and can be replicated in other areas.

About Author; Mageda Esolyo is psychologist by profession, impassioned about women and girl’s health in particular sexual reproductive health and rights, development and equality in the society. She works for Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH), a local grassroots organization based in Kenya called. She is the Program Associate on the sexuality team ”Our Bodies Our choice”.  She manages the “Aunty-Jane hotline” and is the content manager of www.ticahealth.org. She is a keyboard activist on various platforms TICAH’s twitter page and @YourAuntyJane. She has participated on various campaigns regionally, locally and is SGRI CREA alum. Mageda believes that “we are more alike than we are different

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1

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