Author: Nelly Lukale

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Adolescent Reproductive Health Concerns in Sub-Saharan Africa

Young people make up the greatest proportion of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than one-third of the population between the ages of 10 and 24. And sub-Saharan Africa is the only region of the world in which the number of young people continues to grow substantially. By 2025, the number of young people (aged 10 to 24) in this region is expected to increase to 436 million. Furthermore, the population is projected to further increase to 605 million by 2050. Adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa have particular reproductive health vulnerabilities such as high adolescent birth rate, gender inequality, early marriage, abduction, harmful traditional practices (such as female genital cutting), unwanted and closely spaced pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and STIs. These young people need access to sexual and reproductive health information and services so they can use contraception, prevent unintended pregnancy and decide if and when to have children. At the same time, these investments allow young people especially girls to take advantage of education and employment opportunities. Ultimately, if nations want to give young people …

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SDG 2: The future of Agriculture for African Women

September 2015 marked a key step in global development’s future. U.N. member states convened the Sustainable Development Summit to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 2 of the new agenda is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. The SDGs don’t just represent a new level of ambition on eradicating hunger and malnutrition, they’re about leaving no one behind and about getting to zero for all not just some. The ambitious aim to eradicate hunger completely by 2030 seems a great next step. Extreme hunger and malnutrition remain a huge barrier to development in many countries. 795 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2014, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and loss of biodiversity. Over 90 million children under the age of five are dangerously underweight. And one out of four people still goes hungry in Africa. The new SDGs will take on the challenge of solving chronic poverty and advancing global development in an integrated style. Goal 2 clearly addresses hunger, food …

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Availability and Affordability of Contraceptives is Access

“I am 17 years old and a mother of two. I was impregnated by my then ‘boyfriend’ who was my schoolmate and older than me from a wealthy family. He showered me with gifts some of which my single mum who worked as a casual laborer and had 6 children could not provide. When I learned I was pregnant, I didn’t know what to do. The man who was responsible denied being the father and asked me to have an abortion because he was too young to be called a father. I was too scared to tell my Mother and abortion was not an option for me either. I was too stressed and young to think straight. I met an old man who had a wife but was willing to take me with my baby. I eloped with him and started a life together. After I delivered my baby life changed drastically. It was difficult to take care of my baby and my husband could not provide for us. He claimed he gave me shelter …

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Day of the African Child: It is Time to End Child Marriage

As the Region prepares to mark the Day of the African Child, the African Union has estimated that 58 million young women in developing countries have been married off before their 18th birthday. At the present trend, by 2020, 143 million girls would be married before age 18, an alarming average of 14.2 million girls every single year. On June 16, 1976, nearly ten thousand black students from Soweto, South Africa, marched the streets to protest the poor quality of their education and demanding their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of innocent students were shot by security forces. And in the 2 weeks of protest that followed, dubbed the Soweto Uprising, more than a hundred students were killed and thousands were seriously injured. Since 1991, Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 to commemorate those killed during the Soweto Uprising in South Africa, and to recognize the courage of the students who marched for their right to an education. Every year, a theme is identified and this year’s …

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Nowhere in the World is Safe for Women

Violence against women is a vice that has continued to be a serious global health and human rights issue. It touches millions of women and girls in every community in every part of the world. Up to 70 percent of women and girls experience violence in their lifetime. Violence against women is not confined to a specific culture, region, country, or socioeconomic group. Rather, its roots lie in persistent discrimination against women. “I still remember that day like it happened few minutes ago. There I was, bleeding, crying, confused and shaking. Yes I had just been raped by my uncle who had lived with us for over 5 years. I felt useless, miserable and was sure I was never going to heal from this. All I wanted was to die or sleep and never wake up.” – Phyllis Nekesa 15 years old. Although violence against women takes many forms (i.e. violence by an intimate partner, sexual violence, sexual violence in conflict, violence and HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation/cutting, dowry murder, “honor killing,” human trafficking, violence during …

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So close, yet so far: Maternal and Child Health in Africa

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on maternal and child health are lagging far behind the targets. Although Africa is only 12% of the global population, it accounts for half of all maternal deaths and deaths of children under five. In many developing countries, ensuring mothers stay alive, are healthy and their children can thrive are major challenges. Many women die each year from pregnancy-related causes and millions more suffer from complications including hemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labour. In Africa, on average, 162,000 mothers die each year during pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these deaths are preventable. For African women, simple and affordable training will save lives and ensure that childbirth is a joyful experience rather than a life-or-death crisis. The most affected group is women in poor and remote communities, far from the nearest health services. The most at risk and vulnerable are young women and girls. In many communities, girls marry very young and contraceptive advice is poor or non-existent. Many of the worst complications in pregnancy are suffered by teenage mothers. Giving birth …

Stand Up Tall and Break the Taboo of Menstruation in Africa

Originally published on Huffington Post.  Unlike many believe, menstrual health is not just a ‘women’s issue’. We need to get people – boys and girls, men and women – to talk openly about menstrual health in every part of the world. Female hygiene should be at the top of each government’s list of priorities. In 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that ‘the greatest return comes from investing in girls and women. When they are educated, they drive development in their families, communities and nations. ‘ Without access to toilets, sanitation facilities, menstrual pads and information, girls and women are unable to be the drivers of development they have the potential to be. While many governments and non-governmental organizations support several issues affecting girls and women in developing countries, menstrual hygiene management often gets overlooked. Millions of girls in sub-Saharan Africa do not attend school due to taboos and stigma related to menstruation. They do not have access to proper sanitary pads and instead they have to improvise with mattresses, blankets, newspaper, rugs or …

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Breaking the Silence on Menstruation and Hygiene for Adolescent Girls

Adolescence is a transitional phase in life from childhood to adulthood and is something worth celebrating. Unfortunately, for many girls adolescence remains a crucial yet challenging life stage because of its physical and psychological changes – one being menstruation. On any given day, 300 million women and girls around the world will be menstruating and most will spend a total of 3,500 days of their lives bleeding – the majority of whom lack access to clean and safe sanitary products, to a clean and private space in which to change menstrual cloths or pads, or to a private space in which to wash. Negative social and cultural attitudes towards menstruation prevent millions of girls and women from reaching their full potential. In many societies, menstruation is supposed to be invisible and silent; therefore, menstruating women and girls are supposed to be invisible and silent too. The resulting cultural silence surrounding menstruation creates the foundation for girls feeling lifelong discomfort about their bodies, for not seeking help when menstrual problems arise, for lacking knowledge and skills on menstrual …

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Harmful Traditional Practices: A Great Barrier to Women’s Empowerment

Harmful traditional practices (HTPs) exist in many different forms. These traditions reflect norms of care and behavior based on age, life stage, gender, and social class. While many traditions promote social cohesion and unity, others wear down the physical and psychological health and integrity of individuals, especially women and girls. Some of the major HTPs practiced in Africa include female genital mutilation (FGM), early/child marriage and son preference. These have received global attention due to their severe and negative impact on the health and well-being of girls. Efforts to alter or eradicate these practices are often met with suspicion or hostility from those communities practicing them, particularly when efforts originate from outside the community. According to the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation (FGM), a procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, is practiced in 28 African countries. Cutting ranges from removal of the clitoral hood to its most extreme form, infibulation, involving removal of the clitoris as well as some …

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African Women: Pillars of Agriculture but Greatly Marginalized

Women farmers are the pillars of African agriculture. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the agricultural sector employs over two-thirds of all women in Africa who then produce nearly 90 percent of food on the continent. Women are responsible for growing, selling, buying and preparing food for their families yet remain marginalized in business relations and lack control over access to resources such as land, improved seeds and fertilizer, credit and technology. Women serve as the backbone of agriculture and food production in Africa, but the potential of women in agriculture is left largely untapped. African women comprise approximately 70 percent of Sub-Saharan agriculture workers and 80 percent of the actors in the food processing chain. Agricultural programs are rarely designed with women’s needs in mind due to a combination of logistical, cultural, and economic factors, coupled with a lack of gender statistics in the agricultural sector. As a result, African women farmers have no voice in the development of agricultural policies designed to improve their productivity. Dialogues concerning agricultural issues mostly happen at the international level, where a few speak for the …