Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood that happens between the ages of 10-19 years. This is the stage when most young people begin to explore their sexuality and have intimate relationships. Engaging in sexual activities at this stage is risky as it exposes adolescents to early pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections, and sexual violence.
It has been reported that problems associated with pregnancy are a leading cause of death among the adolescents. In addition, sexual coercion is a widespread phenomenon as evidenced by the fact that in some countries between 20% and 48% of young women aged 10-25 years have been forced to have sex.
Most young people cannot protect themselves since they lack information on where to go for adolescent sexual reproductive health care, and the majority are not empowered enough to negotiate for safe sex with their partners. In addition, most youth particularly the girls are under pressure to marry and produce children at such an early stage in their life.
What should be done?
Government needs to invest heavily in adolescent sexual reproductive health. Taking a look at the Uganda national budget, adolescent reproductive health is majorly funded by donors. Adolescent reproductive health should be integrated into the government sectors of education, and justice because it is a cross cutting issue. It is also vital to involve the young people in providing information to break the silence about sexual coercion and violence, stepping up the fight against female genital mutilation and preventing early pregnancy. It is only when the productive health of young girls is prioritized that we will begin to see transformation in the lives of the young women in this country.
The writer is from FOWODE young leaders