As Nigeria joined the World to celebrate this year’s World Population Day, Development Communications Network (DevComs) called on the Nigerian government to provide for the needs of women and girls in line with this year’s World Population Day (WPD) which focuses on raising awareness of women’s and girls’ needs for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and vulnerabilities during the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The government must provide sufficient protection against afflictions arising from the negative outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls in the country. Data has shown that the pandemic has made women and girl’s more exposed to dare results including sexual violence, rape, unplanned pregnancy and various other hazards including loss of lives.
Women and girls make up over 49% of the total population in Nigeria (World Bank) and it is highly important that the needs of half the population of the country be prioritized to enhance gender equality for all. The preponderance of women and girls in the country still live in severe poverty, are out of school or not aware of their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
These have given the group vulnerable as a result of lack of equal possibilities compared to their male counterpart, especially amidst the pandemic.
DevCom’s Executive Director, Akin Jimoh, stated that “there is a need for sustainable public information distribution as a first step to address the vulnerabilities revolving around SRH challenges of women and girls in order for them to live a whole life even in the face of COVID-19.”
A good sexual and reproductive health is a state of total physical, mental and social well-being in all matters recounting to the reproductive system (UNFPA 2020). It indicates that women and girls are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the ability to reproduce, and the right to decide if, when, and how often to do so. A lot of women and girls are not knowledgeable of their SRHR. To sustain a healthy sexual and procreative health women and girls need access to essence and detailed information on safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraception of choice.
Another major key to addressing SRH vulnerabilities of women and girl’s is to make accessible modern contraceptives/ family planning (FP) commodities and supplies, including menstrual health and hygiene items. This is because these items are fundamental to adolescents’ girls and women’s health, empowerment, and the exercise of sexual and reproductive health and rights as these groups can be disproportionately affected by the pandemic (UNFPA, 2020).
The media advocacy project on FP by DevComs Network, in partnership with the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), The Challenge Initiative (TCI), alongside governments at all levels has shown the media to be a vital tool to sensitizing women and girls on their SRH rights. DevComs Network in collaboration with TCI is currently training and mentoring journalists across media organisations in 13 states across the country. The organisation has over the years trained and mentored journalists in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, playing a leading role in strategic communication and media engagement in science and public health issues concerning different sectors of the Nigerian economy.
The future of our women and girls can be managed wisely doing otherwise can lead to a chain of negative outcomes including morbidity, death and population explosion, among target groups. The need to empower women and the girl child is essential and compelling, says Akinpelumi Akinlolu, DevComs head of operations.
(DEVCOMs) Development Communications Network is a media support organization with resources to help journalists in reporting science, public health and social sector issues.