• The sitting First Ladies of Africa are taking part in a conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) in Accra, Ghana.

    The 7th, three-day conference being hosted by the First Lady of Ghana, Dr Nana Lordina Dramani Mahama, who is also the President of the African First Ladies Against HIV & AIDS (OAFLA), is one of the First Ladies’ of Africa longstanding commitment to build and foster regional dialogue on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

    During the opening ceremony yesterday by President John Dramani Mahama, the women leaders were commended for championing for transformation and change in their respective countries where they have initiated programs that touch the common man, a press statement stated.

    “These initiatives support the overall work of our governments and we shall support the First Ladies to achieve their objectives”, said President Mahama when he officially opened the ACSHR conference at the Kempinski Hotel.

    The conference which is organized by Curious Minds, a youth-led organization in Ghana in collaboration with the office of the Ghana First Lady, is running under the theme “Realizing Demographic Dividend in Africa: The Critical Importance of Adolescents and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”.

    One of the initiatives run by First Ladies is Kenya’s Beyond Zero campaign under the patronage of Mrs Margaret Kenyatta. Beyond Zero project works to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS, Maternal health and child mortality through the distribution of mobile clinics to all underserved areas across the 47 counties in Kenya.

    Ghana’s First Lady is the patron of the Lordina Foundation which oversees several programs at the grassroots dealing with Maternal health and child survivor, education of girls and empowerment among other programs.

    Speaking on HIV/AIDS infections Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director attributed the high prevalence of the disease among the girls due to multiple partners and polygamous tendencies. He added that infection among the girls can be traced to old men.

    “We must stop this,” Prof Osotimehin said. “We must also stop early marriages by old men and agree that 18 years is the minimum age for marriage for our girls”, the UNFPA boss added calling for the stoppage of Female Genital Mutilation saying it adds no value among the victims.

    He said investing in health and education are the greatest investment any country can make.

    He also called on African governments to invest more on its youth which constitutes the majority of the 16 billion people. “We should do more for the youth”, he said

    The conference which is being attended by First Ladies has also attracted representatives from over 30 nations including Kenya, USA, Europe and several United Nations organizations.

    Since 2004, the conference has been held every two years to dialogue on concrete actions towards policy programming on sexual and reproductive rights in Africa.

    The meeting has previously been held in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Namibia and Cameroon.

    The conference will see the participants launch a United Continental “All-In” adolescent HIV campaign.

    The campaign which Kenya is a signatory, was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in February 2015 in Nairobi.

    Supported by OAFLA and the Global “All-in” partners such as UNICEF, UNFPA and UNAIDS, the campaign is aimed at pushing governments in Africa to prioritize and improve the provision of integrated HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health Services to adolescents between the ages of 10-19.

    Among things that the meeting will discuss include a plenary on ‘ending child marriage in Africa’, and ‘ending female genital mutilation in the region’.

    Image Credit: PSCU