A group of Nigerian social workers have appealed for greater access to reproductive health information and services for women and girls in the country.
The workers, most of whom are young women between the ages of 18 and 35 representing different non-governmental and non-profit making organizations, converged on Calabar, Cross River State in southern Nigeria, for a four day workshop.
At the programme, which focused on “Policy Analysis on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights”, the women said they want to be directly involved in policies that would guarantee the rights of young girls particularly.
Folasade Adebanjo of Adolescent Health and Information Project, Kano State said “because of where I am based, it is a challenge to get the people to understand that you mean well. This four-day programme has opened my eyes to strategies to use to drive home my message for better reproductive healthcare.”
Similarly, Ramat Asemota, a representative of Girls Power Initiative, Edo State branch, said that the workshop has helped them use tools to critically analyze existing policies on reproductive health issues such as rape.
“We want to look at the policies already in place checkmating people involved in sexual abuses and see how we can advocate for a change for the better. We are concerned that the perpetrators of such hideous crimes easily get off the hook. That is not acceptable. We need better policies to protect girls and women”, said Asemota.
Another young woman, Sharon Frank representing Second Chance Initiative in Cross River State, condemned situations where victims are threatened to be silent after sexual abuses, stressing the need for society to collective join the fight for the rights of young women and girls to be protected.
“That is one area, we need everybody to be alert. We have discovered that silence does not deter or stop sexual abuses. That is why all of us, the NGOs are working together to see how we can make women and girls safer in Nigeria”, opined Frank.
Facilitator of the training and Head of Programmes, Girls Power Initiative, Cross River State, Dodeye Obongho said the aim of forum was to encourage young social workers, especially women, to get actively involved in Nigeria’s policy making process.
According to Obongho, “we work with young people on various issues like education, reproductive health and more. Basically, any policy that targets young people means that such ones must be part of the policy making process to make it effective”.
“The aim of all these training is to improve access to reproductive health information for women and girls. We have hospitals owned by government and private person, yet young girls prefer to patronize quacks. Why?”, said Obongho.
She stressed “the issues is not about availability. Aside availability, there is accessibility and affordability. All we need is for these young girls to have access to the information they need and them provide them with affordable healthcare services to save lives.”
The forum urged stakeholders – parents, teachers, religious leaders and healthcare providers – to assist girls and women attain better reproductive by taking participating in the nation’s policy making process from the community level.