Meeting Young Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs in Nigeria

Type Book
Title Meeting Young Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs in Nigeria
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Publisher Guttmacher Institute New York
With a population of about 140 million,1,2(p. 42) Nigeria is
home to more than one-fifth of the entire population
of Sub-Saharan Africa. The restoration of civilian rule
in 1999 and the election of a new president in 2007
strengthened the country’s sense of hope for progress
toward a more developed society, a stronger economy
and a healthier population.
During the past decade or so, Nigeria signed on to
a number of regional and international conventions*
focusing specifically on the welfare and health of young
people and women. Sexual and reproductive health
among adolescents (15–19-year-olds) has become an
area of focus of the Federal Ministry of Health and of
health-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Official policies at both the national and state levels in
Nigeria now promote the goal of improving adolescent
sexual and reproductive health. Added to these political
developments, the declaration of the United Nations
Millennium Development Goals has given momentum
to efforts by international and national stakeholders to
rise to the development challenges facing the world’s
less developed regions, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa.
The United Nations’ goals underscore the importance
of women and children for any country’s improved
Worldwide, but particularly in countries where poverty
is widespread, as it is in Nigeria, early pregnancy and
childbearing as a result of both early marriage and early
sexual activity outside of marriage are generally disadvantageous
for young women. Motherhood at a young
age jeopardizes women’s health, their economic prospects
and the health and well-being of their families.
Many adolescent women are not sufficiently developed
physiologically to safely experience pregnancy
and childbirth, especially in countries with inadequate or
inaccessible maternal health care services. In addition,
pregnancy and motherhood before the age of 18 often
force young women to curtail their schooling. Poor
education reduces the likelihood that young women
can develop their full human potential, adapt to changing
economic circumstances, obtain well-paying work
outside the home, contribute to their family’s well-being
and play an active role in social development.
Some young women, especially unmarried ones,
who experience an unwanted pregnancy seek induced
abortions to resolve the situation.3 However, because
abortion in Nigeria is highly restricted by law, the procedure
is often performed clandestinely and under unsafe
conditions. Such procedures pose serious health and
social risks for all women, but particularly for young and
disadvantaged women, who may not have the means to
obtain a safe abortion.
With an estimated HIV prevalence of 3.9% among
15–49-year-olds in Nigeria,4
sexually active adolescent
women must also consider how to protect themselves
from HIV and other STIs, even as they seek to prevent
unplanned pregnancies. In fact, a low level of knowledge
of reproductive health among adolescents and
limited access of young people to youth-friendly health
services have been identified as underlying factors contributing
to the rising trend of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria

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