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Empower Liberian young people and fulfill their potential

Adolescents and teenages in Liberia lack information about their sexual and reproductive health © UNFPA Liberia 

On 20 July 2016, UNFPA Liberia and the Government of Sweden  have signed an agreement to address the sexual and reproductive health information and needs of Liberian Young People.

Liberia has a very high teenage pregnancy rate. By the age of 19 years, 3 out of 5 girls are already mothers. This threatens the very core of the Liberian society as many of these adolescent girls often fail to complete their education.

A typical adolescent in Liberia, like most parts of sub-Saharan Africa lacks knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, contraception and their attitude toward pregnancy will be far from realities of its unforeseen consequences.

Meeting the needs for sexual and reproductive health information and services of adolescents is key to preparing them for the future.

Ms. Lena Nordstrom, Swedish Ambassador to Liberia and Dr. Oluremi Sogunro, UNFPA Liberia Representative © UNFPA Liberia 

On Wednesday, July 20, 2016 the Embassy of Sweden and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund signed a US$ 5.3 million cooperation agreement for the implementation of a four-year project entitled ‘Empowered and Fulfilled.’ Sweden will contribute a total amount of forty million Swedish Krona (SEK 40 million), approximately US$4,670,000 over the four years of the project implementation while UNFPA will contribute US$675,600 over the same period.

The project is aimed at increasing the knowledge and skills of young people between 10 and 19 years of age about their sexual and reproductive health and rights in the southeastern counties of Liberia including Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland, and River Gee. It will also work at the national level to improve the enabling environment for the respect and fulfillment of the sexual and reproductive sexual health and rights of young people thereby contributing to the reduction in the high rate of teenage pregnancies in Liberia.

“The high rate of teenage pregnancies can be attributed to the slow possibilities for young people to exercise independent sexual health decision making and access information about sexual and reproductive health and rights;” says Ms. Lena Nordstrom, Swedish Ambassador to Liberia during the signing ceremony in Monrovia.

“Adolescent girls and boys need access to youth-friendly reproductive and sexual health information and services, especially outside the urban areas;” Ambassador Nordstrom said.

“In order for young people to be able to take advantage of society’s opportunities, such as education and work, and to contribute to economic growth, young people must be given the opportunity to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sexual life, without coercion, violence, discrimination or the risk of becoming involuntarily pregnant or being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections;” she added.

UNFPA will work with its key strategic partners to include relevant line ministries’ structures and selected civil society organizations at national and county level in the implementation of the project.

“The programme will target community dwellers including in and out of school youths, traditional and religious leaders, to alter norms that promote early pregnancies;” says Dr. Oluremi Sogunro, UNFPA Liberia Representative.

“At the national level, we have made steadfast progress in creating an enabling policy environment for young people to access sexual and reproductive health information and services. Unfortunately, little has been done to translate these policies into actual programmes that can reverse the high rate of teenage pregnancies;” Dr. Sogunro said.

Dr. Sogunro added that the programme constitutes an important step toward empowerment of young people to say no to early pregnancies.

Liberia’s Youth and Sports Minister Mr. Charles Saah N’tow who also attended the signing ceremony called on young people in Liberia to take advantage of every positive opportunity afforded them to better their lives. “We need to have educated young people who can ably drive the future development agenda of Liberia;” Says Minister N’tow.

Calixte Hessou