SFH Calls on Nigeria to Provide Safe Spaces for Adolescent Girls

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Martins Ifijeh

Nigeria will move closer to achieving major targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by assuring adolescent girls’ access to health and critical social services, the Society for Family Health has said.

Stating this at the National Conference on Inclusivity, Equality & Diversity in University Education hosted by the University of Lagos recently, the Deputy Project Director, Adolescent 360 (A360), Fifi Ogbondeminu said the action will also promote social inclusiveness and help drive down maternal mortality, adding that some drivers of which are unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions among adolescent girls and young women.

Ogbondeminu said SFH started A360 in June 2017 to break down barriers to some critical social and health services for adolescent girls aged 15 – 19 years by creating safe spaces in public health facilities where they can achieve their dreams by acquiring life skills, vocational skills, and making informed choices to create the future they want.

He said: “A360 co-designed the 9ja Girls programme in Southern Nigeria, and Matasa Matan Arewa (MMA) in the North with adolescent girls and their influencers. The programme is funded by the Children Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).”

A good starting point is the review and implementation of the National Policy on Integrating Youth-Friendly Services into Existing Primary Health Care Centres, said Ogbondeminu.

“While testing prototypes when A360 started, we considered the use of the existing youth friendly centres and PHCs to determine which was better for integrating youth-friendly services into the system. We found out that girls were willing to access services in PHCs as long as the providers were youth-friendly,” she added.

On her part, the Regional Coordinator of the A360 Project, Adebusola Odulaja said states should train service providers to be youth-friendly and provide adolescent sexual reproductive health, thereby increasing the network of youth-friendly service providers, which will in turn increase access.

She said one of the challenges of the progamme was that girls complain of long distances to facilities, adding that “adolescents are usually deprived of access to services. We see cases of facility security personnel turning girls back, thereby denying them access”.