NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 30 - The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) on Thursday urged African governments to use social media as tools for advancing comprehensive sexual education for their youths.
Speaking during the 1st intergenerational dialogue in Nairobi, IPPF President Jacqueline Sharpe argued that African countries would only manage to fight and control the spread of HIV/AIDS if they embarked on a proper reproductive health education campaign that would meet the needs of the youth.
She noted that social networks were a convenient means through which to access the youth arguing that the networks were becoming very influential in decision making.
Reports indicate that the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is between 17 and 35 year old.
"Unless we address the inequalities of the young people's sexual and reproductive health rights, as well as their right to participate in decision making on these issues, we will not solve anything," she said.
"The fact is that young people do hold the answers although they need some guidance. We don't hold the future; they do," she added.
Dr Sharpe however noted that social networks could be easily used to propagate harmful content to the youth adding that their use would require strict guidelines.
"For example, where I come from, young people sometimes take indecent photographs of themselves and post them on the networks which doesn't advance the sexual education agenda," she noted.
Medical Services Minister Anyang' Nyong'o further challenged parents to come out of their conservative shells and educate their children on sexual matters.
He noted that the misinformation on sexual issues among the youths was the main cause of unwanted pregnancies as well as the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
"Unfortunately many of our young people grow up without parental guidance and they are often clueless on issues surrounding their sexuality so they make mistakes that affect the rest of their lives," he observed.
He also lauded Kenya for passing a policy on the reproductive health rights of adolescents which is aimed at helping them make informed decisions.
Zambia's first President and goodwill ambassador to the IPPF, Kenneth Kaunda, also challenged African parents to offer sexual education guidance to their children. He argued that the continent's fight against HIV/AIDS would be futile if it was not approached comprehensively.
He added that there was need to synchronise educational, preventive and curative frameworks in order to fight the pandemic.
"We should consider sexual education as a human right because if we don't, I'm of the view, that posterity will judge us harshly. This world has the capacity to deal with many health issues including those relating to reproductive health. We have to recognize the need for sexual education," he argued.
Malawian Vice President Joyce Banda also urged the youth to start competing for political positions in order to participate in decision making. She added that the youth should also exercise self control and responsibility so as to help control the spread of HIV/AIDS.
"Young people should become our economic, political and social leaders. Although I admit that cultural issues sometimes hold them back, especially for the girls, I know that the youths hold a huge untapped potential which can take this continent to the next level," she said.