By Osaigbovomwan Iguobaro
Using the mainstream and social media as well as other means of communication to drive conversation among Adolescent and youth Reproductive Health (AYRH) education require knowledge and expertise. But when something goes terribly wrong, it is human instinct to look for the capable hand, towards achieving set goals.
This thought line was invoked at a Media Round table Parley and adolescent youths (AY) Message Development Programme facilitated by The Challenge Initiative, TCI for Media Advocacy Group on FP/AY held recently in Benin City, Edo State.
The forum helped to echo against unintended consequences such as unplanned pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) as well as other life-threatening health challenges especially among youths and young Adults. Listed among the factors to consider in search of answers include counselling, access to the right information, along with socio-cultural and religious barriers arising from the hostile rhetoric surrounding conversation on use of contraceptives by Adolescent, young Adults and other related issues in this clime.
Measures that should be taken how to scale up campaign to promote conversation on Reproductive Health among youths without necessarily encouraging promiscuity. When total abstinence from sex among sexually active persons become near impossible, access to use contraceptive by adolescent and young adults become the safety valve to drive the theory of change towards preventing harmful health practices.
Mr Denyinye Minna Hitlar, established the ground work on the importance of AYRH service update and avenue for developmental generation at the forum where Media executives and members of Civil society organisations (CSOs) and other Stakeholders.
He harped on the need to scale up resource mobilization on awareness on AYRH reportage by the Media, additional airtime space for AYRH and other issues of concern that should not be ignored.
Citing the National Demographic Survey on Health, 2013, lamented over 35.3 per cent unmet needs (lack of access) of sexually active persons in Nigeria who do not have access to contraceptive instead of avoiding responsibility.
He revealed that a lot of sexually active youths and young adults who have become victims of attacks by stereotypes of society, religious and their parents have either been forced to go underground resort to safe corner to ask for alternatives to limit the circle of manoeuvring. Denyinye howsoever recommended the relaxing the pillars against use of contraceptives to arrest sexual drive of young persons who find it difficult to totally abstain from sex and prevent them from unsafe abortion, STI, STDs and unwanted pregnancies that could result to untimely death.
Cynthia Adeseye, Adolescent Health Desk officer, Edo State Ministry of Health, gave a shocking revelation.
She spoke on ‘Family Planning and Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Information on Edo Media Space, Way Forward,’ gave a worrisome statistics of 72.2 percent of adolescent and youth being exposed to sex at the early age of 15 and 19 in the state.
Giving a breakdown of the figure in sex categories, she recalled a survey carried out by Edo SEEFOR shows that 10.4 percent of male are exposed to sex at the tender age of 14, while 17.1 percent among the female population are exposed to the same act at this same age.
In addition, the data presented by the health practitioner reveals that, unlike the early age of 14, the male folks are more exposed to sex from ages 15 to 19.
A critical appraisal of the info-graphic given, 75.6 percentage of male have sex experiences from the ages between 15 and 19 while the female sex debut at the same age was pegged at 72.2 percent in the data.
For Dr. Bernard Enonena, Technical Support Lead, TCI, demanded for more efforts in beating the odds that tend to hinder AYRH access to the right information.
He commended the media advocacy group for their involvement in RH advocacy and sued for greater commitment to demystify the antagonism frontally.
“It is important to note that as much as we are supporting the state, we are actually not in the picture. The onus is on the media to give us a clearer picture through proper information dissemination and adequate reportage. The media group is doing well, but more needs to be done. “
He tasked the media on facts for message generation, he stated that Nigeria is a young Country and large number of persons make up Adolescent Youth age population.
He also noted that they have needs which if not cared for can affect their goals. He implored the media to note that AYRH services are available in Edo State and that State trained service providers make such services accessible and are willing to provide the services at no cost.
According to him, the media has to inculcate in their reportage the RH gatekeepers, including parents, schools, traditional rulers while their supportive roles should equally be addressed, adding that fears, especially of infertility and specific needs should also be addressed.
The Media Advocacy group was tasked to utilise the various social media platforms as avenues for demand generation, including broad information dissemination via radio, television, AY respected community groups, schools, religious groups, and through social marketing, community outreach, youth friendly health centres, among others.
Earlier in an opening remark, Mrs Patricia Osazuwa, State RH Coordinator, also commended the media group for their role in promoting the issues of Youth and Adolescents Reproductive Health.
“We want to see better improvement and commitment. We will do our part to see such areas of improvement.” Mrs Osazuwa stated.
On his part, Dr. Bright Oniovokuko, urged participants to set the right goals, identify opportunities to benefit target groups and set out assumptions as well as define how changing the system will create opportunities and define areas of intervention.
He also urged the participants to engage community groups, schools, religious groups, and through social marketing, community outreach, youth friendly health centres, among others geared towards increasing visibility in order to tackle emerging challenges surrounding. AYRH.
Appeals to bridge the knowledge gap, nor pronouncements on tweaking the rules to provide a long-term solution, is not enough to achieve AYRH mandate in Edo State. But, commitment from Stakeholders is required to define areas of intervention and mitigate health risk instead of seeking to pass the buck in this uncertain times.