Investing in future of the youth

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Ethiopia has one of the youngest populations in the world, with over half of its citizens under 20 years of age. It has made remarkable progress in increasing school enrollment rates for girls and boys, in expanding young people’s access to health and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, and in making some inroads into tackling conservative gender norms that perpetuate harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.

Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) is the largest global study on adolescents, following 18,000 girls and boys in developing countries to understand what works to enhance adolescent capabilities and empowerment. Recently, GAGE Ethiopia launched a state of gender and adolescence report 2019.

Despite remarkable progresses in school enrollment, access to health services and tackling gender norms, significant hurdles remain in supporting adolescent well being and ensuring their full potential said Gender and Adolescent Global Evidence (GAGE) Director Dr. Nicola Jones.

“Capitalizing on the second decade of life to fast-track young people’s development and promote broader social change is increasingly recognized as a not to be missed opportunity for governments and practitioners. But there is much more we need to learn about what sorts of programmes and services are most effective for adolescent girls and boys.”

The six reports showcase findings from research with 6800 adolescent boys and girls aged 10 to 19 years and their caregivers living in rural and urban settings in Ethiopia to better understand their experiences and perspectives.

There are significant barriers to accessing quality services, especially for most marginalized adolescents such as those living in remote rural communities, married girls, adolescents with disabilities and from internally displaced communities. Poverty, distance to services, overcrowded classrooms and limited capacity among teachers to adopt positive disciplines, violence within the home, schools and communities and inadequate training for service providers are key challenges to interact effectively with adolescents.

Adolescents’ and parents’ educational and economic aspirations are high. However, adolescents and parents have only limited understanding of practical steps to realize aspirations, she added.

Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in expanding access to education over the past two decades. The budget allocated to education has doubled, and with greatly expanded primary school facilities and increasing parent and student commitment to education, the country is close to universal primary enrolment.

The Ethiopian Government has made commitments to increasing reproductive health information, care, and services to adolescents at the global level and has begun to translate those commitments to national level policies. However, significant hurdles remain. Rates are particularly low for girls, who face greater time poverty due to care and domestic work responsibilities. Moreover, learning outcomes are generally less especially in rural areas and adolescents with disabilities have limited opportunities to realize their right to an education.

Reproductive Health Service includes access to information and services on prevention, diagnosis, counseling, treatment and care, and requires that all people can safely reach services without travelling a long distance or wasting time. This means services and treatments must be affordable to people based on the principle of equity. The rationale behind the study was to investigate the level of reproductive health services utilization and to find out the associated factors among adolescents in order to provide evidence-based information and recommendations to alter possible future interventions.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), adolescents are people between 10 and 19 years of age. They make 20 percent of the world’s population, of whom 85 percent live in developing countries. Adolescence is characterized by significant physiological, psychological, and social changes that put them on high risk of sexual and reproductive health related problems.

Social protection programmes including cash transfers, have positive impacts on human development and well-being, including that of adolescents. However, to date adolescence 10 to 19 years has been under prioritized by programme designers compared to early childhood.

In particular, given the increasing salience of gender norms over the course of adolescence, too little attention has been paid to the ways in which age and gender-related vulnerabilities intersect to limit girls’ and boys’ multidimensional capabilities.

Upholding the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) leave no one behind framing will necessitate adopting a wider perspective on adolescents’ well-being, and ensuring that social protection programmes design and implementation by understanding of specific life cycle, gender and other intersecting vulnerabilities as well as opportunities to fast track social changes.

According to the report, Ethiopia has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, and has substantially reduced the poverty rate from 61 percent in 1995 to 26 percent in 2013. There is a growing body of evidence on young people’s economic empowerment in Ethiopia, but overall very limited that focuses explicitly on adolescent girls and the opportunities and barriers they face in terms of access to skills, assets and resources, employment opportunities and social protection.

During 2010 to 2015 mortality ration dropped from 523 to 353 and 53.2 percent of the way to achieving SDGs. Recent and accelerating progress has resulted in highly uneven capability development for many adolescent girls in Ethiopia. For example, while girls are now more likely than boys to attend school, their academic performance continues to lag, in part due to the reality that they are expected to manage the lion’s share of household chores.

The Ethiopian Herald  June 6, 2019

 BY TSEGAYE TILAHUN