The Adolescent Girls and Young Women Africa Conference kicked off on 23rd November and concluded on the 25th. Representatives were drawn from 15 countries from Southern, East and West Africa converging virtually and physically to discuss issues affecting them and proffer appropriate solutions.
Nyaradzo Mashayamobe, the Executive Director of tag A Life who convened the meeting thanked partners like the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Global Fund for Women, African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), and the Canadian Embassy in Zimbabwe who made it possible to hold the important conference that spotlights challenges faced by adolescent girls and young women on the continent.
It was clear from the conference, girls and young women across Southern Africa demand opportunities to progress and seek stakeholders to address structural bottlenecks hindering them from attaining progress.
According to the position paper presented by Polycom Development Project, In Kenya, adolescents make up a considerable proportion of urban populations, and many of them live in the numerous informal settlements or slums in Nairobi. Adolescents living in the slums face a distinct set of challenges as they transition to adulthood in a hostile environment characterized by high levels of unemployment, crime, poor sanitation, substance abuse, poor education facilities, and lack of recreational facilities. While much has been done to provide insights into adolescents’ sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes in the country. Little attention has been paid to understanding and meeting the SRHR and Gender based violence challenges and needs specific to adolescents living in resource-poor urban settings, such as the slums of Nairobi.
The current reality in Kenya, despite the existence of The Sexual Offences Act 2016, is that sexual violence disproportionally affects women and girls (Abuya et al., 2012). Wherever sexual violence occurs, it is a major obstacle for the achievement of gender justice, posing a serious threat to democratic social, and career development (McLaughlin et al., 2017), as well as public health, and is a critical barrier to achieving sustainable development, economic growth, peace and disrupts social association (Darden et al., 2009).
Despite Policy developments and key legislations that have been undertaken geared at gender equality and protection, including the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Sexual Offences Act 2006, Sexual harassment is the most extreme evidence of unequal gender relations in society (Kwiringira et al., 2018).
In Malawi, farming is the major economic activity for the country. What has been of major concern is that only men are recognized as farmers whilst women and girls are identified with the domestic burden of the home.
Presenters said this obviously translates to limited access to business set up capabilities for adolescent girls and young women who resultantly cannot access loans as they do not have collateral.
The downside of that is that women are then forced to do all they can to achieve the economic parity with men including venturing into prostitution.
In a country where 25% of young women are illiterate, such a scenario is a breeding ground for HIV, high maternal mortality rates and generational poverty. Covid 19 has further increased the female burden on the issues.
It was clear from the conference the challenges the AGYW go through cuts across the entire southern Africa and this reflects to the entire continent. This calls for the more policy implementation at individual countries.