The First Lady of Malawi, Getrude Mutharika has called on member states of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA Initiative) to fully involve the youth in matters that affect their lives and promote peer education among them to avoid early pregnancies, marriages and HIV infections.
She was speaking when she closed the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development) side event that took place Monday at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York.
“Today’s young people are dynamic and they refuse to be passive on issues that affect their lives. Young people are not homogenous and they require capacity building on understanding one’s own sexuality in order for them to make informed choices,” observed Mutharika.
Mutharika bemoaned the high numbers of girls globally who become prone to early and unintended pregnancies.
She said: “For example, globally more than seven million girls give birth every year. In the Eastern and Southern Africa region early and unintended pregnancies remain high by age 17 at one in every five women and there are 430,000 new HIV infections per year among young people aged between 15 to 24 years of whom 25 percent die.”
She said Malawi has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies with studies showing about 25.6 percent of 15 to 19 year olds bearing children.
She added that in addition only about 39.5 percent of men and 44.7 percent of women aged 15 to 19 have comprehensive knowledge of HIV.
“These statistics have significant implications for the education and health status of young people which is why Malawi fully commits itself to efforts of advocacy and mobilization and support for young people,” she said.
On initiatives put in place to empower young people economically, socially and politically she said the Malawi government has instituted programmes such as establishment of community polytechnics and skills centres, the 50-50 representation in youth parliament, targeted social cash transfers and the promotion of youth friendly reproductive health services among others.