“Young women and men must have access to youth-friendly contraceptive services that include the provision of a wide range of method options, as well as medically accurate counseling and information.”
SEXUALITY ADOLSCENTS FAMILY PLANNING
According to new data released by the Guttmacher Institute this month, 36 million young women aged 15-19 in developing regions are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy, but most are not using modern contraceptives.
The report notes that roughly half of the 9.6 million pregnancies among this group each year are unintended, and about half of these unintended pregnancies end in abortion - most of which are unsafe.
This was one of the reasons advanced by young family planning advocates from around, who are calling on global leaders to invest in quality, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services (SRHS).
They made the appeal during the 5th International Conference on Family Planning which opened on 12-15 in Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda.
Held biennially since 2009, the ICFP serves as a strategic inflection point for the family planning and reproductive health community worldwide.
The conference also provides an opportunity for political leaders, scientists, researchers and policymakers, advocates and youth to disseminate knowledge, celebrate successes and identify nest steps toward reaching the goal of enabling an additional 120m women to access voluntary, quality contraception by 2020.
Sharing their personal experiences and beliefs on the second-to-last day of this year's conference, the young advocates shared vision for a future they plan to build.
Through monologues and creative storytelling, nearly 30 ICFP Youth Leaders and family planning experts illustrated the barriers young people face while trying to prevent unintended pregnancies, including misinformation, stigma and provider bias, stock-outs and high costs.
"I have had friends who got pregnant when they were just 16," said Baye Leinyuy Bongla, an ICFP youth leader and medical doctor from Cameroon. "This experience changes your life completely. We need to start talking [about access to family planning] so fewer girls have to go through bad experiences. Isn't it wrong to deny a person the ability to make decisions about their body and live a healthy life?"
Their stories also explored related topics including sexuality, menstruation and gender equality.
"Investing in sexual and reproductive health care that meets adolescents' needs is critical to ensuring young people are able to make voluntary and informed choices regarding contraception and relationships," said Dr. Ann Biddlecom, Director of International Research at the Guttmacher Institute.
"Young women and men must have access to youth-friendly contraceptive services that include the provision of a wide range of method options, as well as medically accurate counseling and information."
During the plenary, Kokou S. Djagadou, Youth Division representative with the African Union, described how as a provider he works to ensure young people have the tools they need to prevent unwanted pregnancy, by fighting against misinformation and addressing societal beliefs about young women's sexuality.
"The collaboration of Rwanda Ministry of Health with faith-based health facilities has played a huge role in raising awareness for all contraceptive methods - and this saves lives. Now women in need of modern contraceptives are referred to outreach services and women seeking natural approaches that align with their faith know their options," said Dr. Felix Sayinzoga, Division Manager at Rwanda Biomedical Center.
Alongside Rwanda, representatives from Indonesia, Madagascar and Mozambique shared their progress and lessons learnt, and reflected on common challenges they face when it comes to improving access to family planning services for adolescents and young people.