• Urban slum dwellers face most challenges including lack of security of tenure; poor sanitation; weak or no access to clean water; inadequate supply of basic services.
• Delegate calls it a shame for a girl to skip school because of a menstrual period.
Reproductive health experts on Monday urged comprehensive sex education, saying the pervasive culture of silence, ignorance and lies is hurting women, girls and the whole society.
Religious leaders too, they seed, need sexuality education so they don't spread destructive myths.
“We have become the factory and warehouse of myths where people say when a man is living with HIV and has sex with a virgin he will be cured of HIV. We need to fight this ignorance. We need to speak realistically to ourselves,” Uwemedimo Esiet said.
He is a convenor of the 9th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights that opened at KICC on Monday.
Many women and girls are still being denied access to sexual and reproductive health services. Or they're forgotten.
Delegates at the said progress is uneven, despite having good policies and initiatives by the African Union and member states.
Reasons for their exclusion include conflicts and humanitarian crises, traditional beliefs and practices, religious barriers, poverty, ignorance, poor programme implementation and uneven distribution of and poor access to services.
Current policies in most African counties do not address populations, such as poor girls and women, who are already left behind, he said.
They said young people face obstacles in obtaining sexual and reproductive health services, correct sexual and reproductive health information, modern contraceptives, STI/HIV and pregnancy tests and other services.
The delegates called for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, including for religious leaders, to avoid the spread of lies about the content.
Urban slum dwellers have been predisposed to a higher vulnerability due to several issues including the lack of security of tenure; poor sanitation; weak or no access to clean water; inadequate supply of basic services, space, privacy; and the general precarious quality of slum constructions.
In most urban slum communities, unwholesome gendered and cultural practices are rampant which further worsen the vulnerability of the dwellers.
“We can’t adequately explain to our children a simple issue such as menstruation which is a natural physiological occurrence that signifies the beginning of life,” Esiet said.
He added, “It is shameful and painful that in this day and age girls have to skip school when in their periods because they don’t have access to adequate menstrual hygiene and menstrual wellness.”
Esiet said the problems are compounded when open discussion of sexuality is seen taboo in the whole of Africa yet its inhabitants are sexually active, to say the least.
This, he said, results in Africa leading forced early marriage, FGM and new HIV infections.
“We are suffering, silence is killing us and we know that we need to have a progressive conversation.”
Data shows that in 2014, at least nine per cent of maternal deaths (16,000) in Africa were from unsafe abortions.
Further, it is reported that in 2017, about 58 million women of reproductive age in Africa recorded unmet needs for modern contraception, leading them to use less effective traditional methods.
“Statistics indicate lack of access to sexual and reproductive health and services results in unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and a general unmet need for contraceptives. Africa is the region with the highest number of abortion-related deaths,” Hannington Omollo said.
The conference enters its second day on Tuesday at KICC..
Edited by R.Wamochie