Speaking at the sidelines of the ongoing 71st U.N. General Assembly in New York, Mrs. Mahama, who is also the President of the Organisation of African First Ladies Association (OAFLA), said adolescent girls face numerous challenges and vulnerabilities, yet until recently, they have hardly been the centre of discussions, at the global and national levels.
“Adolescents continue to experience, elevated HIV vulnerability, with the greatest risk of exposure.
“Globally, AIDS is the leading cause of death among women, and girls, of reproductive age 15 to 49, with about 14 million children orphaned due to AIDS,” Mrs Mahama explained.
The theme for the event was, “Improving the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent girls: The role of first ladies.”
Mrs. Mahama said in Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that one out of every six deaths was due to HIV; and 70 per cent of these was among adolescent girls.
She said OAFLA recognised that, many of its member countries, had large populations of young people.
She said OAFLA was turning the spotlight, on: “Improving the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent girls,” on the sideline event of the 71st UN General Assembly.
Mrs. Mahama said OAFLA had strongly advocated effective policies, and strategies, towards the reduction of maternal and child mortality and the empowerment of women and children through the building, and sustaining of strategic partnerships, at global, regional and community levels.
“Therefore, we are committed to help break down barriers, and with adolescent girls in the lead, we will put importance on their sexual, and reproductive health needs.
“Today, we shall determine ways in which we must all prepare, as players on the field, to support, assist and help pave the way, for our girls, towards improving their sexual, and reproductive health,” she said.
Mrs Mahama was speaking at a gathering of first ladies, development and donor partners, ministers of state, technical advisers, goodwill ambassadors; representatives of civil society organisations and youth ambassadors.
Mrs. Mahama said the United Continental “All In” Adolescent HIV campaign launched in Ghana in February, on the sidelines of the seventh Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights calls on countries, to begin listening, involving, and including young people, in efforts to reduce new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.
She said the African first ladies agreed at that meeting that the best practice was to build adolescents’ capacity, and have them lead the efforts.
“We are organising events, to intensify the momentum generated, targeting adolescents, especially adolescent girls, in our respective countries,” she noted.
She said the UN meeting offered OAFLA an opportunity, to advance the course, by reflecting on the current challenges, and gaps, in relation to improving sexual, and reproductive health needs, of our adolescent girls, and then look ahead at how to make this a reality.
She said various partnerships with donor partners have helped reach many more girls with sexual reproductive health, and rights services, as well as skills building, and empowerment programmes.
“Now, further partnerships, and funding opportunities, need to be identified, to comprehensively scale up interventions,” Mrs Mahama said.