Amref Health Africa Power to You(th) statement for the UN General Assembly, 76th Session, General Debate

by Amref Health Africa

The Power to You(th) (PtY) partnership unites Amref Health Africa (AHA), Rutgers and Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke), Choice for Youth and KIT, all established organisations with synergetic expertise, geographic footprint and networks, in a multi-partner consortium that seeks to transform the promotion of gender equality, health and well-being of youth, women, girls and adolescents through youth-led accountability, strengthened civil society movements, progressive social norms and improved policy making and budgeting for youth and adolescent priories and needs. The Power to You(th) Consortium believes for change to be transformative, it must be locally – led and starts with communities themselves. To trigger this change, PtY programme works to strengthen civil society organisations (CSOs) to empower and increase the voice of youth and adolescents The Consortium fosters ownership at the country level, with locally formed coalitions and champions. The overall strategic programme objective of the Power to You(th) Consortium is to contribute to the meaningful inclusion of adolescent girls and young women from underserved communities in all decision-making on issues affecting their lives, including addressing harmful practices, SGBV and unintended pregnancies. Our objective also aligns with specific elements of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on the promotion of health and well-being and SDG5 on gender equality.

The Power to You(th) Consortium works to empower adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) to increase their agency to claim their rights, addresses gender inequalities, challenge gender norms and advocate for inclusive decision-making. Urgent actions need to be taken to ensure acceleration of the achievement of SDGs through transformative change in ending harmful practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and unintended pregnancies. These are persistent ‘key issues’ where little progress has been made in recent years.

After decades of progress in enhancing promotion of Sexual and Reproductive health and reducing the number of girls and young women subjected to female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C), Child Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM), and Gender- Based Violence (GBV), there’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic3 and climate change has set back some of those achievements made thus far.

In the early months of the pandemic, the UNFPA estimated that an additional two million more cases of FGM/C and 13 million CEFM cases could occur over the next decade. That’s on top of the three million girls already estimated to be at risk of undergoing FGM/C annually on the continent of Africa. Respondents to a study by study by Amref Health Africa in 2020 revealed that FGM/C had been decreasing in their communities in the previous years before the pandemic, a trend that has negatively flipped since the pandemic. Evidence shows that there has been an increasing in cases of FGM/C an CEFM during the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of the transmission control measures such as school closures, restricted movements, low reporting and access to justice. Other studies have also revealed that young women and girls have experienced a lack of access sexual and reproductive care health services, unmet need for contraceptives and even access to justice due to Covid 19 transmission control measures.

The purpose of this statement is to outline the big “asks” by Amref Power to You(th) countries; Ethiopia, Senegal and Kenya. This statement is a call to action for these governments to;

  • Increase investments in the promotion of sexual and reproductive health rights through bridging the gap for unmet need for contraceptives, and ending gender based violence and harmful practices in order to accelerate transformative results.
  • Scale up community-led programs, challenging social and gender norms and support adolescent girls and young women through supporting innovative youth driven approaches that offer prevention, protective and responsive SRHR services during the Covid-19 pandemic and other humanitarian emergencies such as climate change.
  • Promote effective and efficient operationalization of policies and legal frameworks to promote SRHR, and end GBV and harmful practices through budget advocacy; civic education in regards to budget processes; capacity strengthening of stakeholders; meaningful youth participation and gender transformative approaches.
  • Invest in Adolescent and Youth Health to ensure access to quality and youth/adolescent friendly health services, information and practices.
  • Providing targeted services to the most vulnerable youth populations, including young people not in employment, education or training to young women, adolescents and children facing increased risks of domestic violence.

Amref consequently recommends that interventions to end unintended pregnancies, FGM/C and CEFM interventions must be integrated into crisis response and recovery (such as a pandemic) as well as broader gender, health, education and empowerment, economic and other development programming. It is crucial to invest in community-led solutions and support innovative approaches by the youth utilizing technology that can help in prevention, protection and response services during emergencies and increase access to essential and quality SRHR and GBV care services for survivors and young girls and women.

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