Faith to Action Network Steering Council and its members would like to join the African Continent and the rest of the world in commemorating the Day of the African Child. The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, established under Articles 32 and 33 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child have named this year’s theme “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy & Practice since 2013”.
This year’s theme goes in tandem with the work Faith to Action Network is doing with its members and partners in Africa and beyond, working with young adolescent girls and boys. We are partnering with different faith actors to promote conversations around Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) among young adolescent girls and boys. As such, we construe SRRH to be a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to sexuality and the reproductive system. In our work, we seek to influence these conversations in places of worship among other spaces, as we have noted that most faiths find it difficult to have conversations with young adolescents about their SRHR experiences. We are pushing for a negation of this social construct and narrative based on our understanding that adolescent girls and boys are directly affected by harmful practices such as Gender Based Violence, Genital Mutilations, Child marriages, HIV, unsafe abortions and many others.
As we celebrate this day, we are worried by the continent-wide data around the increase in teenage pregnancies, high rates of unsafe abortions, early child marriages and contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). We note that across time and space, there have been some progressive gains in addressing the teenage pregnancies but research is pointing towards a worrying trend especially with the effects of the COVID19 pandemic. As noted by Zulaika et al (2022), in the journal of Global Health, “Girls experiencing COVID19 containment measures had twice the risk of falling pregnant prior to completing secondary school”. Research also shows that, in most African countries, young adolescent girls and boys feared going to clinics because they thought they would contract COVID19 at the health Centre which also increased their vulnerability to negative SRHR effects.
As Faith to Action Network, we are conscious of the challenges that young girls and boys face as they journey to adulthood. We note that as the body changes, key decisions are made at an individual level and some of the decisions have a bearing on one’s life either positively or negatively. We mobilize faith leaders to provide a platform in which young people can speak out and have positive conversations around SRHR.
We note and acknowledge that in some faith spaces it is taboo to have conversations around sexuality. We are proud to be advancing work in East and Southern Africa that addresses this sensitive issue on SRHR information and services. For this work, we are proud to be associated with our various partners working in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.
Faith to Action Network partners with faith organizations including Baha’i, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Christian, African Traditional and Muslim for mutual learning and increased collaboration with other faith-based organizations, governments and other stakeholders to advance family health and wellbeing, women’s rights and gender justice while building peaceful, just and inclusive communities. The Network has grown to include 110-member organizations and 29 collaborating partner organizations in 34 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. The network is a southern-born, southern-led global interfaith institution. Respect is at the heart of Faith to Action Network’s mission: respect for human dignity, respect for women and respect for others.
Here is the full statement:
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