By: Tunde Ajidagba, Women Deliver 100 Young Leader from Nigeria
This blog is part of a series, edited by Women Deliver, in partnership with Impatient Optimists, on youth perspectives to celebrate World Contraception Day. Share your thoughts in comments and join the conversation at #WCD2012. For more stories and to get involved further visit No Controversy.
There are many major obstacles that young people face when trying to access or use contraceptive services. They range from socio-cultural issues, problems related to privacy and confidentiality, issues of cost and affordability, and even coping with threatening surroundings.
In Africa, and other developing countries, societies expect that unmarried young people are not having sex, and thus do not need contraception. For many countries in Africa, unprotected premarital sex is the norm: 3 percent of sexually active, unmarried women in Rwanda currently use modern contraception, 25 percent in Congo and 10 percent in Chad. In more than half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the level of unmet need among young, sexually active, unmarried young women is 40 percent or higher. Young unmarried individuals are often denied contraceptive information, education, and services. In turn, sexually active young people do not publicly seek contraceptive services for the fear of the society’s negative reaction.
Those young people who manage to overcome the socio-cultural barriers and seek services in health care centers are often met by service providers who are insensitive and judgmental. Confidentiality and privacy issues arise when adult service providers ask young people if their parents are aware that they are seeking the services. Some even go as far as calling parents and informing them about why their kids have come to their center.
Sexual rights are fundamental human rights which must be respected and protected. These rights includes the right to privacy, the right to health services including contraceptive services, the right to freedom of thought and expression, and the right to education and information. We can overcome these obstacles by educating parents and society that young people are sexual beings who have the right to express their sexualities in healthy, positive, and safe ways.
In addition, I strongly believe that if young people were allowed to manage and run youth-friendly service centers where contraceptive services are provided, rates of young people accessing contraceptive facilities would increase. If young people felt more comfortable coming to health centers for services, and were able to engage with their peers instead of adults, contraceptive use would go up.
Investing in and promoting peer education and youth-friendly services not only benefits young people who visit health centers, but it also encourages youth leadership and meaningful participation. This will go a long way in removing some of the major obstacles that young people face in accessing and using contraceptives. As a young person, myself, I encourage you to think about and approach your work with one thought in mind: There is nothing for us without us.
Tunde Ajidagba, a final year medical student, is the coordinator of Campus Health and rights Initiative (CHRI) a youth based nongovernmental organization located in Obafemi Awolowo University - a densely populated school of over 25,000 students in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. This organization contributea to the improvement of health and well-being of young adults at the university, through the twin strategies of protecting reproductive rights and promoting reproductive health.