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FAMILY, YOUTH AND ADOLESCENTS

After the introductory text, this page is divided into three sections:

 

       Achievements & best practices

 

       Constraints

 

       Recommendations for the way forward

 

Visit the Family, youth & adolescents proceedings section to read the proceedings related to this thematic area.

 

 

 

The DND calls on ECA member States to take due account of the rights and responsibilities of all family members and ensure that measures that protect the family from socio-economic distress and disintegration are taken into account in accordance with family well-being and health requirements (bearing in mind the survival strategies designed by the families themselves); provide couples and individuals with the facilities and resources for deciding the size of their families and integrate family concerns in all development plans, policies and programmes; and encourage analytical studies on demographic processes within the family cycle so as to better identify the determinants of small family size.

 

The ICPD-PA addresses the roles, rights, composition and structure of the family (chapter 5). Accordingly, the objectives of the ICPD.PA are to develop policies and laws that better support the family; contribute to its stability and take account of its plurality of forms particularly the growing number of single parent households; establish social security measures that address the social, cultural and economic factors behind the increasing costs of child-bearing; and, promote equality of opportunity for family members especially the rights of women and children.

 

On youths and adolescents, the DND and ICPD-PA draw attention to the special needs of children, adolescents and youth including social, family and community support, as well as access to education, employment, health, counselling and high-quality reproductive health services. Accordingly, they call upon member States to enact and strictly enforce laws against economic exploitation and the physical and mental abuse or neglect of children and to create a socio-economic environment conducive to the elimination of all child marriages. On unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion and STDs, they urge member States to ensure that programmes and attitudes of health care providers do not restrict adolescence's access to the services and information they need. They stress that these services should safeguard the right of adolescents to privacy, confidentiality, respect and informed consent, while respecting cultural values, religious beliefs and the rights and duties of parents.

 

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Achievements and best practices

Although population programme activities in most of the member States had not paid specific attention to the family, the measures taken for the improvement of the quality of life for various components of the population may have positively impacted on the family. For instance, about 84 percent of the member States have taken action to promote equal opportunities and legal protection for the girl child; about half of them have enacted laws and formulated policies and adopted strategies favorable to adolescent. A rich mixture of diverse approaches to reach youth and adolescents and to win their trust has developed including the enhancement of girls' opportunities with respect to access to education; the provision of information, especially on their menstruation process and sexual/RH issues as well as on health and other basic social services.

 

About 85 per cent of the responding member States have put in place measures to increase age of consent to sexual intercourse to 16 years and minimum age at marriage to 18 years and some to 21 years. Virtually all member States have formulated IEC strategies relating to children, youth and adolescents in their sectoral programs. In some cases the emphasis has been on providing information to adolescents about reproduction, reproductive health, sex and sexual health while in other cases providing RH care services is the only or principal concern.

 

Special programmes either in-school or out-of-school have been introduced to meet the needs of adolescents. For example, in Uganda, a Programme for Enhancing Adolescent Reproductive Life (PEARL) was launched in four districts in 1995 to help respond to the needs of out-of-school adolescents. PEARL emphasises counselling on RH issues; provision of recreation facilities; development and use of IEC materials and messages; conducting research on the impact of culture; parent-child communication; and mobilization of political and community support.

 

An in-school counterpart of PEARL was developed with funding from UNFPA to impart knowledge of RH/life issues to adolescents enroled in school. In Botswana, a group of individuals came together to form the Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) to meet the special reproductive needs of adolescents. Two other programmes which address adolescent RH needs are the Peer Approach to Counselling by Teens (PACT) and Education Centre for Adolescent Women (ECAW).

 

In a few States, legislative and policy measures have been put in place allowing re-entry of pregnant girls into school after delivery. In at least one member State, a special education programme has been established for girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy or marriage. Three States have ratified and are implementing the convention on children's rights. With respect to the girl child, most States have adopted measures to enhance girls' opportunities in the areas of access to education and promotion of RH and RRs. Eritrea, Ghana and Mauritania have promoted girls' education through sensitisation campaigns and establishment of girl-friendly educational programmes structures, policies and incentives. Côte d'Ivoire has provided school equipment to girls at the primary level in the northern regions, where educational levels are rather low. Ghana provides fees-waivers, remedial science courses and part-time study facilities. In Cameroon, special scholarship programmes are available for girls studying the sciences at the universities.

 

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Constraints

Statutory and customary legislation have mostly recognised monogamy and tolerated polygamy, but other forms of unions and family types are not well recognised. Hence single parents may not have full access to RH services and to housing facilities. In some cases the rights of children born out of wedlock may not be clear. This is particularly likely where governments have not systematically reviewed national policies and legislation to determine what are the rights of such children.

 

The preference for sons, which still persists in many societies, is another constraint. There is a lack of in-depth socio-cultural studies which could reveal the incidence of such preferences and their consequences for the girl-child. Many discriminatory practices go unnoticed and may have far-reaching consequences for the physical, emotional, psychological and intellectual development of these children. Much remains to be done in order to eliminate stereotypes transmitted by both the media and pedagogic materials in schools.

 

Special groups such as the disabled and the elderly may also require special attention. To date, few States have addressed the needs of families of disabled persons. Where traditional family support systems are weakening, notably in urban areas, elderly persons may find it very difficult to satisfy their basic needs, especially as only a small proportion of them can lay claim to any social security benefits.

 

Regarding the youth and adolescents, it is particularly difficult to conduct research on their needs because of taboos in some cultures that restrict or prevent explicit recognition and discussion of the sexuality of young adults. Moreover, in some member States, the magnitude and extent of harmful traditional practices and their effects are not well known. Traditional attitudes which are conducive to high fertility, gender discrimination and sexual exploitation of girls and women persist and lead to high rates of unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion and STDs as well as increases in the incidence of HIV/AIDS among youth and adolescents. For instance, it is reported that the Masai of Tanzania are rather permissive and encourage sexual activity among youth. The outcome may be the development of debilitating gynaecological complications such as genital fistulae.

 

There are diverse barriers to the formulation and implementation of comprehensive adolescent RH strategies. Where new policies have been formulated, they are often at variance with other existing policies and protocols. Many FP agencies and NGOs have sought to "comply" with new recommendations relating to adolescent RH by simply declaring that their service delivery points (SDPs) are "youth friendly". But they have not adopted any specific measures to provide the necessary in-service training to their staff. In some States, various groups of parents, religious and even educational authorities have openly objected to the introduction of FLE programmes in schools.

 

Accordingly, the young people in most ECA member States have only limited access to the RH services and information they need to lead healthy sexually active lives. Many of them also lack the skills and support networks needed to develop healthy social relationships with their sexual partners. In general, the youth in most of the States have not been actively involved in the formulation of programmes that concern them. In some cases neither their parents nor other authorities have been fully sensitised to the goals and methods of such programmes.

 

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Recommendations for the way forward

The DND calls on ECA member States to take due account of the rights and responsibilities of all family members and ensure that measures that protect the family from socio-economic distress and distintegration are taken into account in accordance with family well-being and health requirements (bearing in mind the survival strategies designed by the families themselves); provide couples and individuals with the facilities and resources for deciding the size of their families and integrate family concerns in all development plans, policies and programmes; and encourage analytical studies on demographic processes within the family cycle so as to better identify the determinants of small family size.

 

The ICPD-PA addresses the roles, rights, composition and structure of the family (chapter 5). Accordingly, the ICPD-PA urges governments to develop policies and laws that better support the family; contribute to its stability and take account of its plurality of forms particularly the growing number of single parent households; establish social security measures that address the social, cultural and economic factors behind the increasing costs of child-bearing; and, promote equality of opportunity for family members especially the rights of women and children.

 

On youths and adolescents, the DND and ICPD-PA draw attention to the special needs of children, adolescents and youth including social, family and community support, as well as access to education, employment, health, counselling and high-quality reproductive health services. Accordingly, they call upon member States to enact and strictly enforce laws against economic exploitation and the physical and mental abuse or neglect of children and to create a socio-economic environment conducive to the elimination of all child marriages. On unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion and STDs, they urge member States to ensure that programmes and attitudes of health care providers do not restrict adolescence's access to the services and information they need. They stress that these services should safeguard the right of adolescents to privacy, confidentiality, respect and informed consent, while respecting cultural values, religious beliefs and the rights and duties of parents. Accordingly, the meeting recommended that:

 
  • The promotion and implementation of socio-cultural research agenda that will lead to the formulation of appropriate policies and the design of effective and targeted interventions should be intensified.

  • Databases should be established to be used in classifying the different needs of children, youth and adolescent and designing appropriate research to address the gap.

  • Research should be expanded to identify the needs of parents, the sources of information of the youth and positive cultural values.

  • Parents, programmes implementers, teachers and young people should be targeted for training in gender issues that will ensure effective and sustainable gender equality and equity.

  • IEC/Advocacy messages should be expressed in the context of health and developmental issues taking into account positive socio-cultural values.

  • IEC/Advocacy programmes should be linked to service delivery systems that are accessible and responsive to adolescent needs.

  • Inter-generational communication skills should be developed for the sensitization, education and/or training of parents to address the needs of adolescents.

  • HIV/AIDS education, fertility and family planning education should be effectively linked.

  • Life skills education should be incorporated in the IEC programmes in order to ensure positive behavioural change among the youth.

  • Adolescent RH programmes should be linked with income generation and employment schemes.

  • A body/forum should be created in countries to address various personal problems of adolescents. In addition, programmes addressing post crisis situations of adolescents should be designed and effectively implemented.

  • Country-level mechanisms should be created which will ensure the enforcement of various policies related to adolescents.

  • Life-enhancing family stability in which all members of the family (children, the aged and the disabled) have opportunities in life should be promoted.

  • The issues of the aged with respect to poverty should be addressed, particularly, on how this group is affected by HIV/AIDS when they take on the roles of the deceased members of the family.

  • The impact of political instability on the family i.e., the refugee situation and internal displacement should be assessed.

  • All public and private health facilities should be made adolescent friendly and better able to meet the special RH needs of this age group.

  • Youth involvement in formulating, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes should be actively promoted to ensure the successful achievement of adolescent and development.

 

 

 

Visit the Family, youth & adolescents proceedings section to read the proceedings related to this thematic area or visit one of the other areas identified in the assessment of the African experience:

 

 

 

 Theme 1  Reproductive health and rights

Reproductive health and rights

 Theme 3 Gender empowerment

Gender empowerment

 Theme 4 NGO amd private sector roles

NGO & private sector roles

 Theme 5 Policy amd development strategies

Policy & development strategies

 Theme 6 Advocacy and IEC Strategies

Advocacy & IEC Strategies

 

 

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