ADOLESCENT GIRLS WORKSHOP REPORT, YOCADS, LIBERIA
Young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years – are often thought of as a healthy group. Nevertheless, many adolescents do die prematurely due to accidents, suicide, violence, pregnancy related complications and other illnesses that are either preventable or treatable. Many more suffer chronic ill-health and disability. In addition, many serious diseases in adulthood have their roots in adolescence. For example, tobacco use, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, poor eating and exercise habits, lead to illness or premature death later in life.
Adolescence is a time of many transitions both for teens and their families. To ensure that teens and adults navigate these transitions successfully, it is important for both to understand what is happening to the teen physically, cognitively, and socially; how these transitions affect teens; what adults can do; and what support resources are available.
The just ended fourteen years civil conflicts escalating HIV/AIDS rates and low life expectancy, among other factors, Liberia find itself has to an exceptionally large youth population, with those between the ages of 10 and 24 comprising an estimated 60 percent of the populace.
A young Liberian of 26 years or below has effectively been exposed to conflict for the entirety of his or her life for last 14 years. Even at present they have not adequately been given protections, right and roles men and are denied opportunities for employment especially adolescent girls, education, traditional practices, attitude and roles, in addition to religious and economic beliefs, result in unequal power relations, which may not be recognized as discrimination.
In developing countries such as Liberia girls are often expected to remain at home to care for younger siblings and the household. Many young people particularly women grow up in a world of wage disparities, inequitable laws such as those that deny the rights of inheritance.
Considering these the Youth for Community Academic and Development Services (YOCADS) hosted a one day strategic workshop on August 29, 2008 with the theme: “The Role of Adolescent Youth & Girls in Community Development’.
It focuses on issues regarding our (Liberian) girls who have been ranks second on the list of countries in the world with the highest threat of teenage pregnancy and early marriage, and also who have faced with severe violence, trauma and upheaval during the war; embody the great hope and great concern for the nation’s future. We strongly believed that their energy, resilience and potential to rebuild have an enormous impact on Liberia’s prospects, however, their need must first be taken into consideration to prevent further frustration, disillusionment and discontent in Liberia, and this has to be done with their complete participation.
The workshop brought together adolescent boys and girls (age of 10-21), youth groups, the Community Council, the OIC of the Community Clinic, stakeholders etc. to issues such as teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Exploitation & Abuse, Adolescent Reproductive Health, Domestic and Gender Based Violence among others.
The workshop began with registration of all participants, singing together, self introduction, ground rules, and presentation by facilitators, questions & answers period, sharing of participants in 6 for group discussion as well as group presentation.
The workshop had two facilitators, first came from the Sonewein Community Clinic and the second came from the Youth for Community academic and Development Services (YOCADS). The first presenter, presented on teenage pregnancy, adolescent reproductive health and sexual exploitation & abuse, in her presentation she give a critical analysis on the causes of teenage pregnancy, SEA etc. perpetrators, effects and solution to these problems. The second presenter was Barbara L. Ketter, the gender officer of YOCADS; she spoke on HIV/AIDS and its effect. In her presentation she stressed out that adolescents girls should not allow themselves to be used by men whose primary objective is to have sex with them leading them to be infected with the HIV virus. Barbara L. Ketter encouraged the youths to be mindful about the danger HIV/AIDS. She stated that, it is estimated that Sub-Saharan Africa 1.9 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2007, bringing to 22 million the number of people living with HIV where Liberia is no exception. She further said that, two thirds (67%) of the global total of 32.9 million people with HIV live in this region and three (75%) of all AIDS deaths in 2007 occurred.
Considering the numerous problems faced by youth particularly adolescent girls, YOCADS recommend the following:
Alphonso K. Weah