Eastern and Southern Africa Inter-ministerial dialogue on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights for young people and adolescents
Uganda is among the countries that has ratified the joint Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) commitment made in 2013 by Ministers of Education and Health of 20 countries in the region with a view to prevent new infections of HIV, curb early and unintended pregnancies, eliminate gender-based violence and child marriage following a regional report produced which reviewed the trends and status of sexual and reproductive health and HIV among young people.
Against this backdrop, the SADC and EAC Secretariats, together with the Technical Coordination Group convened a Regional Consultation on the ESA Ministerial Commitment from 11 to 12 October 2021, with the goal of reviewing the findings and recommendation from the ESA Commitment Evaluation report and discussing submissions from Member States, civil society and young people’s organization. The forum was also organized for consensus building upon the key themes for consideration in the renewed ESA Commitment and strategies to ensure the endorsement of the commitment on health and education for the wellbeing of adolescents and young people.
The two-day ESA Inter-ministerial dialogue on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and sexual reproductive health rights for young people and adolescents in the region ended with a call for meaningful youth participation and leaving no one behind, through fulfilment of promises by Member States on education, health and wellbeing for adolescents and young people.
The hybrid event held both physically and virtually attracted hundreds of delegates from the 21 ESA member states, including Uganda whose delegates converged at Lake Victoria Serena Hotel.
Among the key highlights from the 2-days consultation dialogue was the receipt and evaluation of the ESA report and dashboard presented by Dr. Lamboly Kumboneki from the SADC Secretariat which highlighted the ESA Commitment targets that was set out for 2020. They include: the need to consolidate the recent hard-won gains in the fight against the increase in HIV prevalence in ESA and push towards eradicating all new HIV infections among adolescents and young people aged 10 to 24; reduction in early and unintended pregnancies among young people by 75%, increment of adolescents and young people aged 10-24 who demonstrate comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge levels to 95%; elimination of gender-based violence and child marriage and increment in the number of schools and teacher training institutions that provide Comprehensive Sexuality Education to 75%.
During the dialogue, a number of set-backs that impeded progress in the ESA Commitment were highlighted by Dr. Remmy Shawa. He stated that, “inequalities in education continue to persist and COVID-19 related school closure saw 1.6 billion learners out of school meanwhile there’s insufficient progress to reduce early and unintended pregnancies with rates ranging from 22% to 36% among 15to19-year-old in the region.” He also noted that there is still limited access to SRH services and information and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in older adolescents aged between 15-19, among others.