Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Don’t Agonize, Organize

At the ongoing 3rd Africa Sexuality Conference in Abuja Nigeria, young Africans are demanding to be given their fundamental human rights of which their sexuality rights is one of them.

In a session titled ‘Youth sexual rights, gender based violence and poverty’, African youths represented in the discussion panel by Miss Adiya Atuluku, Miss Esther Agbarakwe and Martin Mary Falana vehemently demanded from African governments and the adult community to treat young people as humans with rights that have to be met and protected.

Adiya Atuluku noted that despite constituting a good percentage of the population of Africa, “young people have limited access to quality information that will help them make informed sexuality choices and lack access to quality heath care when in need. Numerous traditional practices make youths vulnerable to sexual abuse.”

Esther Agbarakwe enumerated the ordeals that young people face due to gender based violence, violent acts against women, trafficking in young women and children and the wickedness of female genital cuttings among others on the sexuality of the African youth and asked “what can we do?”

Martin Mary Falana, the only male in the panel could not hide his anger at the toll that illiteracy, poverty and government lack of committment at addressing these youth challenges are having on the health of the future generation of Africa. “Monies spent on estacodes for politicians is enough to provide motorable roads so that our schools and hospitals can be more accessible but they will not” Falana bemoaned.

What can we do? How can we ensure that our governments and the adult community take the rights of the youths more seriously? How can we better demand our rights? These are some of the questions that resounded in the session venue, begging for answers from both panelists and participants at the session.

Youths were enjoined to take their destiny in their own hands by seeking and sharing information on their rights and on issues that affect them. They were told to volunteer their time and services to their community and organizations around them. Volunteering, it was said will provide youths with the needed space to learn and to express their concerns and above all to be spotted and recognised.

The youths called on government to also live up to its responsibility of protecting the rights of it citizens and meeting the needs of these citizens like good health care among others and to recognize that the youths are bonafide citizens of any nation.

The Action Aid Nigeria deputy country director, the organization that organised the discussion session in her remarks charged youths to “organize rather than agonise. The youths have a number that can not be over looked; if 60 million young people in Nigeria will demand for a thing with one voice, they will certainly be heard.”

By Ogechi Eronini

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