Accra, Feb. 11, GNA - Miss Akosua Agyapong, a youth activist, has called for the formulation of laws to protect their sexual rights as well as increase the age of consent to marriage from 16 to 18 years with no exceptions.
She said from the very patriarchal set-up that arbitrarily determines for women and children, issues of their sexuality, there were too many harmful cultural practices that endanger their sexual and reproductive health.
These, she said, included Female Genital Mutilation, child marriages and gender based violence amongst others.
Miss Agyapong, who is a student of the University of Ghana, made the call at the seventh African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights being hosted by Mrs Lordina Mahama who is also the President of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA).
The Conference on the theme: “Realising Demographic Dividend in Africa: the Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights’’, was organised in collaboration with Curious Minds-Ghana, an organisation of young advocates and youth in broadcasting.
Participating First Ladies are from Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali and Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and Chad.
Other First Ladies expected at the Conference are from Sudan, Madagascar and Mozambique.
Also in attendance are the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, the President of the International Women’s Health Coalition and over 15 Ministers from the Health, Justice, Gender and Youth Ministries across Africa.
Over 500 participants, representing various stakeholder and constituency groups across the African continent are attending the conference including policy makers, development partners, civil society organisations, academia, media, adolescents and youth activists.
Miss Agyapong said: “A great deal of havoc has been caused for centuries to many on the African continent particularly women, adolescents and young people over issues of their sexual and reproductive health rights.
She called on African governments to invest in the education of the youth specifically in the areas of comprehensive sexuality, the provisions of ASRHR programmes and youth-friendly reproductive health services to adolescents and young people.
“Without the right investments in young people we will not be able to harness the demographic dividend”, she said and expressed commitment in championing issues of sensitisation, mentorship, advocacy and accountability in the sphere of ASRHR.
She also pledged to be worthy ambassadors for the Agenda 2063, Sustainable Development Goals, and ICPD Beyond 2014 agenda.
Miss Agyapong appealed to traditional, religious and community leaders to work tirelessly at ensuring safe communities and schools for the youth.
Ms Catherine Nyambura, a youth Activist from Kenya, on behalf of young women in Africa, called on African First Ladies to ask their state parties to accelerate the elimination of barriers in accessing factors of production such as land, technology, capital and labour.
"African state parties should also accelerate development of policies to facilitate young women and girls’ access to Africa’s resources in our quest for economic empowerment and overall realisation of the demographic dividend”.