KIGALI, Rwanda – Experts in adolescent reproductive health from ten African countries converged here today to share information and harmonize programming that can improve the lives of young people.
The meeting was opened by the Minister of Health Dr. Richard Sezibera of Rwanda, a country whose extraordinary development progress in the last decade has confounded all expectations.
“Like other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a majority of our people, are young… It only makes sense that our programming should focus on them,” said the minister. “Focusing on the sexual and reproductive health needs of youth may have unintended and unanticipated benefits in other sectors that may not be visible for some time.” His country, he added, is investing in youth as a way to accelerate progress toward all of the Millennium Development Goals.
The main objective of the workshop is to guide country teams in developing action plans that will ensure delivery of comprehensive and intersectoral programming to empower young people and foster their successful transition to adulthood.
“This is a ‘how to’ meeting,” said UNFPA advisor Dr. Asha Mohamud, in her opening remarks, and talked about the need to “bring our collective wisdom together so that we can replicate what works in other countries and modify what does not.”
The background for effective programming is outlined in UNFPA’s fourfold Framework for Action on Adolescents and Youth, which addresses population policy and poverty reduction, education, services, and youth leadership and participation. Advocacy in these areas can be buttressed by a recent series of detailed Adolescent Data Guides from which 48 countries, which were introduced at the workshop.
Countries represented include Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda,
Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. In addition to UNFPA country teams, the group included representatives of regional institutions, ministries and other international agencies, including UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO.
The meeting is the first of 5 regional workshops that will take place throughout this year and 2010, said Dr. Laura Laski, chief of UNFPA’s reproductive health branch. They aim to provide teams with the capacity and resources to influence policy and programming in their respective countries. One aspect of this is the participation of regional institutions. Their technical expertise in the regions is increasingly important to UNFPA now that it no longer has a system of country technical support teams, said Dr. Laski.
Including different agencies was important strategically as well, said Benson Morah, the UNFPA interim representative in Rwanda, which is one of nine countries piloting the UN reform initiative ‘Delivering as One. “If we don’t coordinate our actions, sometimes we don’t achieve the results we hope,” he said.