The Swedish Embassy near Monrovia and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Liberia have signed a US$5 million cooperation agreement that is expected to benefit Liberian youth between the ages of 10 and 19.
The agreement, which is expected to be a four-year project aimed at increasing the knowledge and skills of young people, is about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. It will be implemented in four counties in the southeast, including Maryland, Grand Kru, River Gee and Grand Gedeh.
Speaking before the signing ceremony, which took place Wednesday, July 20 in the offices of the specialized UN Agency, UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Oluremi Sogunro said the ceremony marked another important day of partnership between two peoples on two different continents, adding that it was also a very special day for the young people of Liberia.
“A typical adolescent in Liberia, like most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, will lack knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, contraception and their attitude towards pregnancy will be far from realities of its unforeseen consequences,” he stated.
He disclosed that by the age of 19, three out of five girls are already mothers.
“They lack self-efficacy, are largely involved in risky sexual behaviors and lack future aspirations,” he added.
Dr. Sogunro asserted that with programs such as the ones they are about to get into, they can ably help young women and teenagers achieve their potential and help repair some of the difficulties they encounter, including broken families and exposure to negative foreign cultures.
“This program will attempt to address such challenges through increasing connectedness between parents and their adolescents; changing harmful family norms around coerced sex for monetary gain, reintegration of adolescent mothers back to school and alter norms that reinforce gender inequalities,” he stated.
Also speaking, Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Madam Lena Nordström said all that Sweden wishes for in this agreement is to see every young Liberian empowered and fulfilled, which is the mantra for the four-year project: ‘Empowered and Fulfilled.’
“Adolescent girls and boys need access to youth-friendly reproductive and sexual health information and services, especially outside the urban areas. For this reason, the project will be carried out in four counties outside Monrovia, these being Maryland, Grand Kru, River Gee and Grand Gedeh,” she stated.
The Swedish diplomat disclosed that Liberia’s experience is not so different from Sweden’s, adding: “the Demography and Health Survey of 2013 supports the importance for sexuality education for young people in Liberia. It states that children born to very young mothers are at increased risk of sickness and death. Teenage mothers are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes and are also more constrained in their ability to pursue educational opportunities than young women who delay childbearing.”
She assured that UNFPA will include every young person in the program during the four years of implementation, beginning this year and ending in 2020.
Making remarks earlier, Youth and Sports Minister Saah N’Tow was full of praises for the Swedish government for supporting Liberia in her post-conflict development efforts. Mr. N’tow stated that young people of Liberia would be the direct beneficiaries of the four-year program.
Sweden will contribute a total amount of forty million Swedish Kronas (SEK 40 million), approximately US$4.67 million, over the four years of the implementation of the project. UNFPA will contribute a total amount of US$675,600 over the four year period.
UNFPA will work with its key strategic partners in Liberian government institutions and selected civil society organizations at national and county levels in the implementation of the project.
To achieve its goal, the ‘Empowered and Fulfilled’ project will seek to achieve three objectives, including social, education, and health systems, to deliver Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and Family Planning (FP) information and services to young people between 10 and 19.
The main beneficiaries of the project are women and young people between 10 and 19 years of age. UNFPA will seek to prioritize the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.
The project will work at the national level to improve the enabling environment for the respect and fulfillment of the reproductive and sexual health and rights of young people.