Southern Africa: East and Southern African leaders recommit to education, health and well-being for adolescents and youth

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Johannesburg – The Ministers of Education, Health, Gender and Youth of East and Southern Africa (ESA) have expressed overwhelming support to continue their joint efforts to create a better future for adolescents and children. young people in the region by empowering young people and protecting their health and well-being to achieve common goals.

A high-level ministerial meeting held virtually on Monday, as part of the 2021 International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) reaffirmed and expanded the commitment first made in 2013.

Eight years ago, the ministries of health and education of 20 countries – supported by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) – joined forces with regional United Nations organizations to agree on a common commitment, known as the ESA Commitment. They recognized the urgent need for a more systematic scaling up of sex education and youth-friendly SRH services in the region.

“Africa has a large population of young people, and we must do everything in our power to take advantage of this demographic dividend. Our young people are our hope for the development of our continent, Africa. As leaders today, we must prioritize the health and well-being of young people for the betterment of Africa “- Dr Regina Mhaule- Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Africa from South.

While significant progress has been made in improving sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes among adolescents and young people, significant gaps and obstacles remain in achieving the goals of the engagement of the ‘ESA. A 2013 engagement assessment found progress in reducing new HIV infections, increasing global knowledge about HIV, and creating an enabling policy environment. However, the assessment also indicated that accelerated efforts are urgently needed to reduce early and unwanted pregnancies, gender-based violence and curb the effects of humanitarian emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This further underscored the need to renew the commitment, broadening it and aligning it with the 2030 SDG Agenda.

“Young Africans must have the facts and the confidence to stay safe and healthy, lead a life of dignity and contribute positively to their community and their country. They must trust us, their elders, to tell them the truth. Therefore, as religious leaders, we pledge to support today ESA’s commitment to strengthen efforts to ensure the health and well-being of our children and youth ”, said the professor. Mbulelo Dyasi – Chairman of the South African Pentecostal Bishops Council and National Chairman of the South African Network of Religious Leaders Living and Affected by HIV and AIDS (SANERELA).

Extensive national and regional consultations with governments, adolescents and youth, communities and development partners from all sectors have led to a new updated regional commitment and targets for 2022-2030.

“ESA’s engagement opened doors that were closed to us as young leaders. It provided the opportunity to continue advocacy on SRHR to change the lives of adolescents and young people. We strongly encourage and support an expansion and extension of ESA’s engagement towards Agenda 2030, “said Hussein Melele – Vice President of the African Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN) ESA.

This commitment from the Ministers of Health, Gender, Education and Youth is expected to accelerate investments in education, health and well-being of adolescents and young people in ESA.

“Today, we are focusing on adolescents and young people, and we are ready to promote national and international intersectoral collaboration. ship heading for a land where our adolescents and youth are healthier, more productive and continue to champion the inclusive development of our societies, ”said the Hon. Simai Mohamed Said – Minister of Education and Vocational Training of Zanzibar


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