Every girl has the right to lead a healthy and self-determined life. Still, too often girls face multiple barriers preventing them from accessing health services which meet their specific needs.
Girls, in particular, face several obstacles to see their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) respected and fulfilled: due to entrenched gender norms and stereotypes, girls are often denied the right to exert control over their bodies and do not have a say in important decisions such as if, when and whom to marry or whether and when to have children. Girls also lack access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) which gives the possibility to young people, and in particular girls, to better understand their bodies and their rights, to address power relations in their lives, and to counter harmful gender norms and stereotypes.
John Jessy – a EWAG young advocate from Uganda – underlines the importance for young people to have access to SRHR information, so to be fully aware of their rights, including in cases of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV):
“Only by having full knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health and rights youth can make informed decisions about their bodily autonomy.”
COVID even exacerbated some of these challenges, as John Jessy confirms: ‘’In our communities, we saw an increase in teenage pregnancy rates and early marriages, which led to an increase of school dropouts, especially for girls. This goes hand in hand with increased challenges in accessing family planning services, like modern contraception, because of lockdown measures and the restrictions to access health facilities.’’
Amal, a EWAG young advocate from Spain, stresses the importance for SRHR to be protected and promoted also within Europe, especially for those people that are in more vulnerable situations, such as migrant women.
EWAG youth advocates agree that increasingly involving young people in decision-making process and making sure they can access quality youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and rights services and information is key for youth, and girls in particular, to make informed choices about their lives and bodies.