Group Photo of some Youth leaders at the ECOWAS Youth forum on Population and development (Photo: Kobby Blay)

Director General of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), Professor Stanley Okolo, has advised all governments and relevant stakeholders to prioritize the youth in development policy making since they contribute to the largest population in the ECOWAS region.

Prof Okolo, iterated the need for the voices of the youth be heard in a bid to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) so that no one is left behind.

Some Youth leaders from the Gambia during the opening of the first ECOWAS Youth Leaders Forum in Banjul (Photo: Kobby Blay)

“It is estimated that more than 50% of the population of our Region are young people under 35 years. This therefore suggests that issues concerning young people must be given priority in all development policies. Our young people are the future of our nations!”, Prof Stanley Okolo highlighted

His statement was made on his behalf at the opening of the first ever gathering of West Africa Youth Leaders on Population and Development in Banjul, the Gambia.

Drawn from the ECOWAS region, the two day sub regional event brought together youth leaders, youth-led and youth-focus movements, networks and organisations across West Africa who are involved in implementing projects or initiatives at grassroots level that advances the ICPD agenda.

Prof Okolo expressed delight about the realization of the event which had been possible in collaboration with the African Youth Commission (AYC) and other partners.

“This day will forever be remembered in the annals of our region, for being the First ECOWAS Young Leaders Forum on population and Development” his statement acknowledged.

Reproductive Health Problems among the Youth in West Africa

Sexual and reproductive health problems affecting adolescents and young people in ECOWAS Member States according the Prof Stanley Okolo include early or child marriage with its attendant health issues, social and legal ramifications; early and unwanted pregnancies, clandestine abortions with their resulting complications contributing to 13% of the maternal mortality rate among adolescent girls.

“The high prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection, which remains the leading cause of death among adolescents and young people in the region, low access to and use of contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health services, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) among girls and adolescents.” he added

Official Opening of the Youth Leaders Forum

Opening the ceremony, the minister of Youth and Sports of the Gambia, Hadrammeh Sidibeh, disclosed that the energy and contributions of the youth to the realization of the various national, sub regional, continental and global development agendas continue to inspire his ministry greatly to answer to the calls whenever the country’s support for such events.

“The youth should not be perceived as trouble makers but rather as solution providers to our problems.

He highlighted on the gains made since the 1994 ICPD and called for renewed, collaborative efforts since the region still had a long way to go.

Time to show results

Chairman of the Gambia National Youth Council, Mr Dembo Kambi, called on the youth leaders to revolutionize approach towards development so rewrite the narratives of not just countries in ECOWAS but the continent’s.

Chairman of the Gambia National Youth Council, Mr Dembo Kambi (Photo: Kobby Blay)

“We the young people of Africa cannot continue asking questions, we’ve asked questions for so long, it’s time to give answers. To revolutionize our approach towards finding solutions to issues such as sexual and reproductive health rights affecting the youth of the region or risk seeing the status quo will remain the same”, Mr Dembo Kambi intoned.

The Youth leaders forum is under the theme, ‘’ICPD25, The Contributions of West African Youth to Accelerating the Promise’’. It is co-organised by the AYC Secretariat and The Gambia National Youth Council under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in partnership with ECOWAS West African Health Organization (WAHO), UNFPA The Gambia and AfriYAN Gambia.

The outcome and key recommendations from the Forum will feed into the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25.

ICPD25; The Road To Nairobi

In November 2019, the world will be watching Nairobi as the Government of Kenya, the Government of Denmark and UNFPA and partners convenes for the Nairobi High-Level Summit to advance the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

This Global high-level conference is scheduled to take place from 12-14 November 2019. It is jointly convened by the Government of Kenya, the Government of Denmark and UNFPA, and aimed to advance the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

The conference will offer an inclusive platform, bringing together governments, UN agencies, civil society, private sector organizations, women’s groups and youth networks to discuss and agree on actions to accelerate the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action