August 13, 2019 • Joyner Musombi
The theme of International Youth Day 2019, “Transforming education”, highlights efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth, including efforts by youth themselves.
Today the world is home to 1.8 billion young people under the age of 25. This is the largest generation of young people, ever, and are a vastly diverse group of individuals. Most young people are healthy, however, a much greater number of young people suffer from illnesses which hinder their ability to grow and develop to their full potential. And still a great number of young people engage in behaviours, including unprotected sex or exposure to violence, jeopardize not only their current state of health but often their health for years to come.
Many young people become sexually active before 15 and are uniquely at risk for both HIV and unplanned pregnancy. In fact, adolescents aged 15–19 are the only age group in which new HIV infections are increasing, and HIV remains one of the leading causes of death for adolescents aged 10–19.42% of young people live in poverty. Their limited access to accurate information and opportunities makes them vulnerable to poor sexual and reproductive health.
Young people are only taught about the biological aspects of reproductive health and not about sexual rights, pleasurable experiences and happy relationships. Often this conservative information comes too late, and given after puberty or sexual activity has already started. Young people and adolescents need to be able to make informed decisions and have access to sexual and reproductive health education, information and services.
Making Sexual and Reproductive Health education more relevant, equitable and inclusive is crucial to achieving sustainable development. When young people have access to health and education, they become a powerful force for economic development and positive change. Access to services is key to promoting the Sexual and Reproductive Health of young people. A more holistic approach toward Sexual and Reproductive Health is needed, including services which address sexual and gender-based violence, sexual diversity, discrimination, relationship issues, and fears and concerns about sex and sexuality.
Informed Youth make better choices. Let us all take action to encourage other youth to take action and engage in discussions around their health.
Authors: Natacha Mugeni & Joyner Musombi
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