By Rose Mahoro

Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) is an essential component of the universal right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other international human rights conventions, declarations, and consensus agreements.

Globally, most people become sexually active before their 20th birthday and according to the data from the Demographics and Health Survey, the median age of young people in Uganda having their first sexual experience is 16.4 years thus an alarming increase in teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions. According to the data collected from Naguru Teenage Information Health Center, 64% of the clinical problems at the facility were related to STIs management. No wonder, early this year (2017), Uganda Aids Commission released a disquieting report saying 500 girls get HIV infection every week in Uganda.

This plague should be caused by scant knowledge about contraceptives and HIV and AIDS, increasing immorality among young people since social and cultural norms have largely prohibited teachers, parents and children from discussing sex, mistrust between the youth and the service providers which impairs access to youth friendly services.

The ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) tabled a shocking motion to ban comprehensive sexual education in schools which was a blow to activists who have been advocating for a more holistic sex education and a more open dialogue about sexual reproductive health that covers the psychological and emotional aspects of adolescents and helping them make more informed decisions.

Although this is happening, we shouldn’t forget Uganda’s successful response to HIV/AIDS and for this reason, it was held as a model for other countries. The government of Uganda also registered a tremendous achievement for young people in the field of SRHR by adopting policies that created an environment supportive of adolescent sexual and reproductive health. International and national organizations such as RHU, UHMG, Reach a Hand and Marie Stopes Uganda have come up with programs and interventions aimed at behavior change, advocacy and service delivery for adolescents.

Among the interventions, Marie Stopes Uganda launched SRH Ambassadors program for young people ages 18-25 years where they are trained on Sexual Reproductive Health and leadership roles to help them reach their fellow young people in and out of school who may be in need of SRH knowledge and information, refer them to appropriate facilities and empower them to make informed decisions.

In Addition, Marie Stopes Uganda runs a toll free line 0800220333. This helpline is adequately equipped to provide free and friendly counseling, information giving and referrals on SRH related matters to both female and male adolescents in a confidential manner.

Therefore, gender and human rights should be placed at the heart of sex education, service providers should be trained in providing youth friendly services, NGOs through the government should come up with interventions to increase access of free youth friendly services, stake holders, parents and children should as well work hand in hand to have a better Sexual Reproductive Health.