Introduction Several reasons exist as to why we should focus our attention on the health of adolescents in this country. These include: To reduce death and disease in adolescents; To reduce the burden of disease in later life; To invest in health today and tomorrow; To promote human rights and To protect human capital.
Adolescents face many reproductive health risks since they are more prone to experiment and engage in unprotected sex; young women are less able to resist sexual pressure and coercion, they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation for favors and financial support, many have to endure unsafe abortion procedures and for biological and cultural reasons are more susceptible to HIV infection.
Lack of reproductive health knowledge and information leads to younger adolescents (10-14 years) not being able to fully understand or appreciate the changes in the bodies, and need reassurance, support and must be able to access information on sexuality and reproductive health rights. Older adolescents (15-19 years) lack decision and negotiation skills required to makes career choices and defy pressure to practice irresponsible sexual behaviour. Health personnel, parents, teachers and guardians need to have the skills to assist young people in making the transition to adulthood in a productive and healthy manner.
Besides knowing about their sexuality, information on reproductive health also equips adolescents with knowledge on proper diet to adhere to in order to mature properly. Girls who are malnourished at this age end up with a small pelvis and may become anaemic. Young adults also need to learn about STDs/STIs and HIV/AIDS, how to prevent themselves against them, and their symptoms so as to know when and where to seek help when needed. Girls get to learn about their monthly periods and how to recognize problems associated with them.
Besides the ‘healthy' segment of knowledge on reproductive health, young adults also need to know about harmful practices, which negatively affect their reproductive health. These include female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages. Both are normally carried out forcibly on girls hence denying them their freedom of choice and right to education besides exposing them to a lifetime of scars and pain, complications during birth for young adolescent mothers and even death. Boys are also at times forced to undergo circumcision against their will or are victimized if they have not undergone the act. They all need to know where to seek help incase of issues arising from such practices.
Forms of sexual abuse including rape and incest, which afflict girls and boys in many homes and schools, need to be addressed in order to equip teenagers with the required information. They need to know that these acts are illegal and punishable by law. No one deserves to be sexually abused and cases need to be reported as soon as they take place to the nearest authority.
Questions that many adolescents ask about reproductive health are addressed in this booklet and the best answers are sought for them. It is intended to be a quick source of knowledge for the sexuality needs of adolescents and the youth. It will hopefully answer the when, why, how and where queries they have on various issues of reproduction that girls and boys have as they grow up. In the end, we hope that the booklet will give adolescents the knowledge about their sexual and reproductive rights to enable them make responsible decisions. Download Pdf