Yaounde , Cameroon - Ahead of the official opening ceremony of the 6th edition of Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights on 5 February, a capacity building workshop opened on Monday in Yaounde with a call on African countries to double their investments in the youth.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country Representative in Namibia, Dr. Ademola Olajide, speaking at the opening of the two-day workshop, noted that the continent would be unable to attain its full potentials without a productive young people to boost the economies of the various countries.
“Africa cannot attain its full potentials, if the girl-child education and the development of the youth are not accorded top priority in the development agenda,” Dr Olajide told the participants drawn from across Africa.
He said the continent had a relatively young population, with about 42% of them under the age of 15 years, noting that though remarkable progress was being made in the reduction of maternal and child mortality, teenage pregnancy still remained a key problem.
The health expert noted that more investments were required in Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), because they had the potential to reduce expanding population in Africa.
“Investing in Africa’s young people towards harnessing the demographic dividend remains the key to economic growth,' Dr Olajide said.
'We need to invest in building capacity of women, increase access to sexual and reproductive information, health, education and nutrition. All our policies must work together to support youth development.”
A participant from Zambia, Innumose Goya, while describing the workshop as useful, said it would strengthen their leadership capacity and knowledge about sexual health rights.
Co-organisers of the conference, Executive Director, Women in Alternative Action (WAA) Cameroon, Justine Kumche, told PANA that the workshop was to prepare the youth for the main conference, stressing that it was part of activities to make their voices heard and included in the main agenda.
“The general objective of the conference is for participants that have come from all African countries to get the knowledge on sexual health and rights and reflect on ways forward on how things can be put in place to eliminate the risk that is involved in sexual and reproductive health.
“Normally in African culture it is believed that sex is a taboo subject and they won’t want to discuss it, and so this is an opportunity for Africa and the world to have a space, which they can discuss and share ideas to chart a way forward in handling sexuality issues,” she added.
About 500 delegates are participating in the conference which ends on Friday.
It has participants from various sexual and reproductive health constituencies including the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), policy makers, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and development partners.