Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency the President,
Honorable Vice President,
Your Excellency the First Lady of Sierra Leone,
Your Excellency the First Lady of Nigeria,
and president African First Ladies-Peace Mission
Wife of the Vice President,
Distinguished Member of the Nigeria Delegates,
UNFPA Representative for the Sub Region,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Distinguished Representatives of the Donor community,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure and pride that I stand here today as a woman, the Minister of Health and Sanitation, and member of the National multi-sector team, united in the fight against teenage pregnancy. I am proud of the initiative of His Excellency the President, who has taken the bold step as one of the first African leader to develop a national multi-sectoral strategy to address the high prevalence of teenage pregnancy. Our purpose here today is very significant, because the issue of teenage pregnancy impact the very fabric of our society and forestalls our national progress in health.
|Health and Sanitation Minister, Madam Miata Kargbo delivering her speech at the Launch
Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, here are some facts,
1. Becoming a mother carries risks for all women, regardless of their age, but many factors make adolescent pregnancy especially hazardous.
2. For adolescents, who are not physiologically mature, pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous. According to UNFPA, adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy and child birth as women in their 20s. For girls under 15, the risks are 5 times higher.
3. A woman who begins childbearing at a young age usually has more children and at shorter intervals during her lifetime. These factors (young age, multiple children and short intervals between births) are all linked to maternal mortality as well as to disability due to childbirth.
4. The risks are not limited to the mother. Babies born to teen mothers are also far more likely to die than those born to older women. Death in the first week of life are 50% higher among babies born to mothers younger than 20 years than among babies born to mothers 20-29 years old. Issues of malnutrition are more prevalent for babies born to teenage mothers.
5. I could go on further with evidence and statistics, but there is an undisputable fact that we cannot ignore…One in every three teenage girls in this country is pregnant or has already had a child. These girls are risking their lives and we have for too long looked the other way. Teenage Pregnancy is killing our daughters and these girls are too young to die…We need to wake-up!
6. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has been at the forefront to address the consequences of Teenage Pregnancy. The Free Health Care initiative has provided support to patients all around the country and attempted to better protect future mothers and their babies.
7. But despite these efforts, girls remain the most vulnerable segments of the population. One in every three teenage girls is pregnant and something needed to be done to address a problem that has for too long gone unspoken. Government needed to take action, and I am pleased to say that we have taken action.
8. Teenage Pregnancy is not just a health issue, so we believe that only a coordinated approach that would bring all stakeholders and all sectors together could durably and efficiently contribute to the reduction of Teenage Pregnancy.
|President Koroma and First Lady of Nigeria Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan standing outside the Miatta Conference hall after the Launch
9. Since its inception, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has been leading the process, which has led to the formulation of the National Strategy. We feel the national health services can play a better role in providing youth-friendly services. We feel that health services can be better adapted to respond to the needs and specificities of adolescents and young people.
10. Through the National Strategy, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation will also join efforts with all the development partners to better provide information, counseling and orientation to adolescents and young people…all in view of better preventing teenage pregnancy, before it becomes a reality for all these young girls and the people that care about them.
11. As a people, we need to admit that we sometimes find ourselves in denial of those unspoken realities in our society…so let me take this opportunity to emphasize that Teenage Pregnancy is a problem that cannot be addressed if we do not target those social norms, those traditions, that make it a normal thing to see 12-year old girls carrying babies or teenage girls engaging in sexual activities with boys or older men. I agree with our donor partner that we need social revolution. It is crucial that all partners undertake an ambitious programme of training, sensitization and raising awareness of communities, health workers, parents, teachers, religious leaders and many more on these issues. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation will actively participate in these efforts and ensure that the health services are at the forefront of this modernization of the Sierra Leoneans society.
12. Ladies and gentleman, I want us to think for a second of these girls of their families, of the people that care for them. One in every three teenage girls in this country is pregnant or has already had a child. These girls are risking their lives and we have for too long looked the other way.
13. Today, we are saying that change is possible. We are saying that the world in which we are living can provide a better future for adolescents. We have an amazing story to tell of our youth in this country, more specifically, an amazing story to tell of our women and girls in Sierra Leone. We will tell that story..we will give the testimonies of amazing women and girls in our society, because today we are saying together, that no more shall the issue of teenage pregnancy be a silent hindrance to the empowerment of women and girls in Sierra Leone
14. Today we are saying: LET GIRLS BE GIRLS, NOT MOTHERS.
15. I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION.
|Cross section of the audience at the Launching ceremony
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.