The 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, scheduled to be held from the 8th of February to the 12th of February 2016, has been launched in Accra.

The Conference will deliberate on sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youth sub-types including early, middle and late adolescents, adolescent and youth living with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), youth in conflict situations and youth living with disabilities.

It will also discuss issues on the vulnerable, excluded and key/marginalized populations, sexuality education, youth-friendly services, forced/early marriage, adolescent motherhood, abortions, gender-based violence and maternal morbidity, and mortality.

Apart from expert meetings, constituency-focused meetings and capacity-building workshops, pre-conferences— Youth pre-conference, Women’s pre-conference, Parliamentarians’ pre-conference and Media pre-conferences— will also be held.

The five-day Conference, which is being organized by the African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights (AFSHR), will be hosted by Curious Minds, Ghana and under the proud patronage of the First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, Her Excellency Lordina Mahama.

The theme for the Conference is ‘Realizing Demographic dividend—The Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights’

In address to launch the conference, His Excellency Girmay Haile, Country Director, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) in Ghana, noted that the high migration rate, management of urban populations and HIV and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) were major challenges for governments to deal with in the next twenty years.

His Excellency Girmay said the Conference was necessary as it would provide a platform for the discussion of such issues in an effort to find solutions to them.

In a statement, Dr Babatunde Ahonsi, Country Representative, United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), said there was the need to recognise and fulfil the reproductive and sexual rights of all young people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and ensure access to health education and services, including safe and legal abortion.

Dr Ahonsi described the 7th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights as part of the process of deepening the discourse and moving forward of the agenda of addressing the challenges of policy gaps in promoting sexual health and rights.

He said the organization of such conferences had produced quite a number of youth leaders and put the issues on the policy agenda of Africa’s development.

Dr Ahonsi, therefore, commended the organizers of Conference as their efforts were in consonance with the recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the Bali Global Youth Forum which stressed the need for the youth to stay healthy; be entitled to and have access to comprehensive education, families, youth rights and well-being, including sexuality; transition to decent work, leadership and meaningful youth participation, comprehensive sexuality education, youth participation, access to comprehensive health services, including abortion; investment in young people and the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against the youth.

Ms Edith Asamani, Conference Manager, who presented an overview of the Conference, said the Conference would identify promising and best practices for adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, with a focus on effective responses to youth vulnerabilities.

In addition, Ms Asamani said, the Conference would facilitate knowledge management and programming to enhance the regional and global development agenda, and propose actions to promote adolescents and youth sexual and reproductive health and rights in the implementation of the ICPD Beyond 2014, the post-2015 Development Agenda and Agenda 2063.

The Executive Director of the Conference Secretariat, Kingsley Obeng-Kyereh, in a welcome address, said the Conference formed part of a long-term process of building and fostering a regional dialogue on sexual and reproductive health and rights that would lead to concrete actions to enhance stakeholders’ ability to influence policy and programming in favour of a sexually-healthy continent.

AFSHR has collaborated with several Core Conference Partners (CCP) and other key stakeholders in sexual and reproductive health over the past twelve years to organize the regional Conference.

The ACSHR had been held in Johannesburg, South Africa (2004), Nairobi, Kenya (2006), Abuja, Nigeria (2008), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2010), Windhoek, Namibia (2012) and Yaounde, Cameroon (2014).

Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)