Reproductive Health in Nigeria is not getting the attention that is required. In the secondary schools, sexual education is being taught but it is extremely restricted and barely informative. This is because the Nigerian culture frowns upon sexual intercourse before marriage and all teachings about practicing safe sex, how to take care of pregnancy and other related issues are not fully explained. In the homes, the young girls are discouraged from asking these questions as they are deemed inappropriate for their young ages.
In some regions of the country, especially the northern region, most of the young girls cannot afford to go to school because they hail from poor families. The culture in that region also encourages young girls to get married as early as possible. This social construct makes the biggest ambition of a teenage girl.
Northern Nigeria accounts for 42% of the country’s 15-19 year old girls and these girls are the least educated and empowered in Nigeria but they still have a 71% fertility rate. Local midwives are sometimes inexperienced and some families absolutely refuse to take pregnant women to hospitals because of the mistrust towards western civilization.
Young women need to be granted the education, means and power to determine their fertility as this is the first and most important step towards improving reproductive health in Nigeria. The challenges facing reproductive health implicate all public sectors of the country not just health.
The physical, mental and emotional well-being of Nigerian women included freedom from unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal death and disability, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and all forms of sexual violence and coercion.
As things stand, young girls are highly vulnerable to HIV infection, they are burdened by unplanned and unwanted pregnancies too early in life and this puts them at great risk. Young girls are sometimes married off due to the poverty of the family even if the girl does not consent and a lot of girls are being abused sexually at epidemic rates.
According to reports, there is a severe lack of funding at the federal and state government levels and there are no clear budgetary provisions on the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents. the bulk of the funding available is provided by international donors, thus the utilization of funds is always on donor’s terms.
Also, majority of the existing programs are focused on young people in school and very few programs target out-of-school adolescents, married adolescent girls, young people in especially difficult circumstances, or those in rural areas However, there should be responsive programming to the varying needs of the young Nigerian girls based on their life circumstances.
There should also be multi-disciplinary, public-private collaboration and coordination to facilitate greater synergy in programming. Improving the reproductive health of Nigeria is a serious goal and it is the responsibility of every individual to ensure that is achieved.