By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)

Africa nations are being challenged to adopt database for men who violate sexual rights of women. Many women suffer sexual and reproductive health rights propagated mainly by men majority of who are their husbands.

The perpetrators of these heinous behaviors usually relocate to other neighboring countries in Africa after committing the offence. The database would help in tracking the offenders and keep them at bay from innocent citizens.

These are some of remarks made during the 9th Africa Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights taking place in Nairobi, Kenya from 10-14 February, 2020. The conference is being held to look at impact made since Beijing Conference 25 years ago.

Theme: Advancing the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Urban informal Settlements (Slum Communities).

So, Africans join the UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign to accelerate gender equality actions and mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, 1995.

Dr Uwemedimo Uko Esiet, Public Health expert and Convener for the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) said it is high time Africa invest on database of men who violate women sexual rights for action.

Dr Esiet reiterated that if database policy is deployed by policy makers,it would help regulate movements of such offenders. He stated such crooks freedom of movements must be curtailed by all means for safety of community of women and girls .

“Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent. It has population of one billion and majority are women.  Approximately 16% of these women live in rural areas or informal settlements,” Dr Esiet said.

Dr Esiet hinted that empowering women and girls is empowering the whole community. He said women in developed countries are now more educated than men, yet they still earn less, are poorly represented in various fields because they are not empowered.

 “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be achieved within its time-frame slated in 2030. Therefore, Africans should stop clapping with one hand instead use both to achieve the dream,”Dr Esiet challenges Africa policy makers.

He regretted that most African women in rural areas find it difficult to deliver due to lack of proper health facility. This is contributing to high maternal mortality rates even in urban informal settlements.

The conference has offered two days, a space for young people from across Africa to gather and discuss specific issues of concern to their sexual health and rights. It aims to harvest the experiences and knowledge of participants towards building a collective continental position on how to address the special circumstances affecting Africa’s youths.

This event is founded on data that highlight the need for solutions tailored to address the current challenges affecting the African youth with regard to sexual health and rights.

“Africa Youth Trends”, a study by the Africa Alliance of YMCAs (AAYMCA), shows that the biggest health concerns for young people are consequences of early and unprotected sex (49 percent) including unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and STIs. Other concerns are alcohol, drug abuse and mental health. Young people also identified the internet and peers as influencers of their sexual behaviours.

While 72% of the youth in Africa prefer living in urban areas according the study, many of them end up being victims of uncontrolled urbanisation. They dominate urban slum dwellings after taking up low paying jobs that expose them to sexual exploitation and emotional harm. 

The study also shows extensive evidence of risky sexual behaviour among the youth. About 27% of male and 26% of females aged between 15 and 19 reported having had sex before 15 years.

Most of the World’s adolescent motherhood occurs in Africa, where about 19% of young women become pregnant before the age of 18.

Studies by UNFPA and WHO show the high risk associated with adolescent pregnancies, including low infant birth weight, obstetric fistula and high maternal mortality ratios. These are most prominent in low income settlements and urban slums. Yet sexual health and rights are basic needs that everyone should have access to.

“We are not equal until all of us are equal,” says Dr Esiet, Convenor of the 9th ACSHR. He adds: “The circumstance of your birth or location must not determine your future. It is the failure of State and all of us that young people, especially from informal settlements, have continued to lack access to sexual health care services and critical information.”

Discussions at youth conference are guided by various sub-themes of the main event, these being: Accountability; voices; breaking the cycle; leave no one behind; innovation; and technology.

The youth recommendations will thereafter be presented at the main conference for consideration by the policy organs of the African Union Commission and relevant Regional Economic Communities (RECs).

The 9th ACSHR is hosted by the African Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) Trust – a not-for-profit organisation that advances gender equality through research and action on women’s human rights.

GEM’s strength lies in working with marginalised women and adolescent girls in and out of school, and who are living in low resourced areas. It champions their sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organisation also works with sex workers and women living with HIV.