Islamabad : Health information and services that are more accessible to adolescents and young people empowers them to take full advantage of opportunities for education, employment and societal...
Islamabad : Health information and services that are more accessible to adolescents and young people empowers them to take full advantage of opportunities for education, employment and societal participation. This was stated at the launch of the national study on the state of reproductive health of adolescents and youth in Pakistan. The study was jointly carried out by Population Council and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with support from the Department for International Development, UK (DFID) in Islamabad.
The report analyses health issues including puberty, family planning and marriage, and awareness on gender-based violence faced by adolescent and young boys and girls (ages 15 to 29). The study was conducted in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar. Key recommendations of the study pertain to making health, including reproductive health information and services more accessible to young people. Health staff must be trained in counselling and treatment modalities.
Medical camps and Lady Health Workers programmes shall address out of school adolescents’ health issues whereas pre-marriage counselling should be provided to young couples about family planning, fertility management and birth spacing. The study findings also recommend introducing compatible life skills-based education drawing on all main stakeholders that the youth relies on for guidance including families, schools, health community, religious scholars and media.
The report says that lack of correct information on puberty hampers adolescent girls and boys in negotiating physiological changes and in some cases puts them at health risks. A majority of young girls and boys understand the harmful health implications of early marriages and are well aware of the health risks associated with early childbearing. Adolescents are aware of the concept of family planning and reported knowing about the importance of birth spacing through TV commercials, friends and the internet.
Dr. Nosheen Hamid, Member National Assembly of Pakistan and Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services was the chief guest at the occasion. She expressed government’s commitment to provide safe, quality and affordable health services for its citizens. She said that the present government considered three areas as its priority that includes improving maternal health and wellbeing; improving the nutritional status of young persons; and stabilizing population growth rate. Dr Nosheen also stressed on the need for stronger legislation to ensure universal access to health services, including reproductive health services, in line with the CCI recommendations.
Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director, Population Council said the report forms the basis of interventions to improve healthcare, including reproductive health access and services for adolescents and youth who make up over 60 percent of the total population. The report findings endorse the Council of Common Interest’s recommendations such as ensuring universal access to reproductive health services; and including Life Skills Based Education in mainstream school curriculum to inculcate responsible adulthood in young people. In her welcome remarks, Lina Mousa, UNFPA Representative in Pakistan said that the study provides evidence for policy and programme development for reproductive health of young people, enabling them to make right choices in life. “Mainstreaming Life Skills Based Education for in and out of school children is essential to promote healthy development of young people,” she emphasized. Annabel Gerry, Head of DFID in Pakistan said that Pakistan currently has the largest cohort of young people in its history and provides an opportunity to harness human development. “Lack of safe spaces for adolescent girls to talk about their health issues affects girls’ ability to learn and to be safe against child labor, violence and harassment,” she added.
Addressing the participants, Rafique Tahir, Joint Education Adviser, National Curriculum Council, Ministry of Education, shed light on the government’s initiative of developing a uniform national curriculum for public and private schools and madressahs with a stronger focus on imparting Life Skills Based Education to the young people.
Mohammad Ali Malik, Deputy Secretary, Prime Minister’s National Youth Development Programme – Kamyab Jawan was also present at the launch. Malik apprised the audience on various initiatives being undertaken under Kamyab Jawan programme for youth entrepreneurship, youth skill development and the green movement. He reiterated government’s commitment to integrate young voices, perspective and their aspirations into national development policies and processes.
In her remarks, Senator Sana Jamali spoke about the importance of girls’ education in terms of women empowerment and its benefits on health and wellbeing of women and their families. She said educated girls can make informed decisions about family size and make important household decisions. The launch also featured a panel discussion with health practitioners, legislators, sector leaders and civil society members on identifying opportunities for meeting young population’s health needs. The panelists emphasized to take immediate measures to address existing gaps for youth for health services and suggested introducing life skills education in school curriculums, improving health infrastructure, providing youth-friendly health services and promoting public private partnership to make health services accessible to adolescents and young people across Pakistan.