Ensuring Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Services Through SDG3

By: Jennifer Amadi, Women Deliver Young Leader

Young women in Nigeria are caught between tradition and a shifting cultural landscape, brought about by urbanization, globalized economies, and a media-saturated environment. Many young women are unprepared to face the challenges that accompany limited access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including forced child birth, banishment from the community, infections, and even death.

One of the central human rights issues of 21st century is providing universal access to reproductive health care services, including access to contraceptives as well as safe and legal abortion. Only 27 percent of single, sexually active teen women in Nigeria report using some form of modern contraception. Without protection, this can result in unwanted pregnancy.

Every year, 456,000 unsafe abortions are performed in Nigeria. This an alarming figure that should not be taken lightly. Sustainable Development Goals, adopted during the 70th session of UN General Assembly in September 2015, are an intergovernmental set of aspiration goals. Target 3.7 is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs, by 2030.

Access to safe and legal abortion has been recognized by the global community as an essential intervention in a package of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health. Sustainable Development Goal three offers the most potential work for young women in the area of sexual and reproductive health care services. We can begin by subsidizing contraceptives supplies and increasing access to safe and legal abortion care.

As Women Deliver says, when the world invests in girls and women, everybody wins. The benefits of investing in youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care services are far reaching, and can have positive ripple effects in the future. Young people may not constitute 100 percent of our current population, but they are100 percent of our country’s future population.

Young people like Chinelo Obasi, a Nigerian woman who, at age 15, had her first child because she was unable to access reproductive health care. While interviewing her, she told me her story in tears. She recounted how, when she discovered she was pregnant at four weeks, she sought reproductive health care but was unable to access it. She felt that she was seen as someone who had committed an atrocity and should therefore suffer.

Today at 19 years old, Chinelo has had four children for whom she struggles to provide shelter, food, clothing, and education. “I wish I wasn’t denied access to reproductive health care services when I sought for them,” she said.  “Perhaps my life would have been a lot better and colorful, too.”

Chinelo, like many young women who are unmarried when they become pregnant, has faced discrimination, stigma, and other traumatic experiences in Africa. And when pregnant young women are unable to access reproductive health care services, they may turn to unsafe abortions, which carry a high rate of maternal morbidity and mortality.

Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services for everyone, regardless of age, would help young people lead healthy sexual and reproductive lives and to plan their families as they wish. Young women’s reproductive health and rights matter. Ensuring access to them is an important step towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal three and towards ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services.

Jennifer is very passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights and family planning. She is a Women Deliver young leader class of (2016), #Choice4Life Advocate, and currently works for DKT International Nigeria. When she is not working, she is busy sharing positive life issues with people. She frequently tweets on SRHR/FP @AmadiJen.

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