Despite Global SRHR Breakthroughs
Globally, health systems have experienced major development, especially the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) component. On the contrary, developing countries like Nigeria have made little progress as regards the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of adolescents and women. Medical innovations such as Pre and Post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV/AIDs, oral HIV test kits, medical abortion, and various contraceptive methods have been developed to improve the sexual and reproductive health of humans.
Despite these groundbreaking landmarks, there is often limited access to SRHR information and services which in turn leads to negative health outcomes in a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The level of Comprehensive Sexuality Education is also still low thus affecting SRHR options. Even in 2021, like Ghana, the preference of young people on condom use is also not too different.
SRHR is a broad concept that envelopes several reproductive health issues often addressed in bites. To have an optimum health standard for all, every component of SRHR needs to be comprehensively addressed. SRHR includes contraception/family planning; comprehensive sexuality education (CSE); antenatal, obstetric and postnatal care.
Others include safe and accessible comprehensive abortion care; post-abortion care; prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDs; prevention and management of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) such as rape and sexual assault, Harmful Traditional Practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early/forced marriage.
SRHR Information Gap too Wide
The age of sexual debut at about 15 years in Nigeria is early. With the high level of risky sexual behaviours reported, there exist serious SRHR issues. It will continue to worsen if adequate prevention and control measures are not put in place. The reality of most young people is that they lack the right information to make informed decisions about their reproductive health.
This is made worse with lots of myths and misconceptions which readily go viral with this group. The attitude of health care providers, cost and availability of necessary commodities and services, the culture of silence, and other health determinants also further limits the access of young people to SRHR services.
With Onelife Initiative for Human’s Development’s primary focus on young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, we execute varied interventions aimed at providing non-judgmental and age-appropriate information coupled with linkage to related services.
Through the School Connect Project, adolescents and young people in educational centres are taken through 4 weeks of intensive classes to provide them with SRHR information appropriate for their age. An interesting aspect of this program is the Anonymous Question Box which allows participants to ask all sorts of questions freely, SRHR related or not without their identity being attached to it. The series of questions from the box further confirms the dire need for this information among them.
Our Various SRHR Interventions
Onelife Initiative for Human Development through its partners and team has worked on various SRHR interventions in the last 6 years across Nigeria. We have joined efforts in accelerating the abandonment of unsafe abortion among women and girls through Project Safire and also on Project Accelerate. In addition, relevant information like those in this guide are distilled and provided for women and girls at the community level.
More importantly, we have also provided linkages to required services through referrals and linkages to health care providers already engaged with. From 2019 through 2021, we reached 3,887 in-school adolescents with age-appropriate SRHR information. This also includes Adolescents and Young Persons (AYPs) with disabilities. In 2021, we reached 87 female sex workers with SRHR information through our intentional efforts to reach vulnerable persons.
Working in a society with strong cultural beliefs and norms, a major practice that Onelife Initiative has consistently worked on contributing to its end over the years is Female Genital Mutilation. Several projects such as EndFGM Poster Arts Competition, Nigeria Media Campaign against FGM, Ending FGM through the Last Mile Reach, Training of Young Men as End FGM advocates, and other various programs have been carried out to reach people with SRHR information.
In 2019, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc supported us to reach the deaf and hard-of-hearing students with SRHR information in Oyo State. Social media, mass media, and physical community engagement have been harnessed to reach thousands of women and young people. Change in social behaviours involve an interplay of several factors, in order to achieve increased positive outcomes in the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women.