As Nigeria recently joined the World to celebrate this year’s World Population Day, Development Communications Network (DevComs) is calling on the Nigerian government to prioritize the needs of women and girls, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
It would be recalled that this year’s World Population Day focuses on raising awareness of women’s and girls’ needs for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DevComs Executive Director, Akin Jimoh, said there is a need for sustainable public information dissemination as a first step to addressing the vulnerabilities revolving around SRH challenges of women and girls in order for them to live a healthy life even in the face of COVID-19.
It is imperative that the government should provide adequate protection against adversities arising from the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on SRH needs of women and girls in the country, says Jimoh, adding that evidence has shown that the pandemic has made women and girl’s more vulnerable with dire consequences including sexual violence, rape, unplanned pregnancy and various other hazards including loss of lives.
“Women and girls make up over 49 per cent of the total population in Nigeria (World Bank) and it is highly imperative that the needs of half the population of the country be prioritized to enhance gender equality for all. Majority of women and girls in the country still live in extreme poverty, are out of school or not aware of their SRH Rights. These have rendered the group vulnerable as a result of lack of equal opportunities compared to their male counterpart, especially amidst the pandemic”, he added.
A good SRH is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system (UNFPA 2020), says the executive director, adding that, it implies that women and girls are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so.
He said, “A lot of women and girls are not aware of their SRH rights. To maintain a healthy SRH, women and girls need access to quality and accurate information on safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraception of choice. Another major key to addressing SRH vulnerabilities of women and girl’s is to make available modern contraceptives/ family planning (FP) commodities and supplies, including menstrual health and hygiene items.
“This is because these items are central to adolescents’ girls and women’s health, empowerment, and the exercise of SRH rights as these groups can be disproportionately affected by the pandemic (UNFPA, 2020).”
In the same vein, DevComs head of operations, Akinpelumi Akinlolu said the future of our women and girls, if not managed wisely doing this pandemic era, can lead to a chain of negative consequences including morbidity and mortality and population explosion, among target groups, adding that the need to empower women and the girl child is urgent and imperative.
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