The lack of access to contraception leads to high levels of unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, increased vulnerability for HIV and other health risks, thus undermining young people’s futures. It also reinforces the already low level of girls’ and young women’s school attendance.
The figures were presented by Benin’s IPPF MA ABPF, or l’ Association Béninoise pour la Promotion de la Famille, by Brigitte Kangni, head of the youth department , and Kader Avonnon, Benin’s SRHR youth ambassador, during an exchange with Belgian MPs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda, at the federal parliament in Brussels.
What explains the low prevalence of contraceptives?
The guest speakers identified different causes for the low use of contraceptives amongst Benin’s young people. Because sexuality is such a taboo, young people do not have easy access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about their sexuality. Parents do not address the subject with their children, girls’ virginity is still highly valued in society and by religious leaders, and sex education is not part of the curriculum. Contraceptives are also very expensive for most youngsters who on top of this are often unemployed.
Inaction despite political willingness
Benin’s political leadership is willing to make changes. In 2013 the government undertook to provide free access to contraceptives by 2015. However, as Kader Avonnon explained, on the eve of 2015, the government had not taken any action to deliver on its promise. At that point Avonnon and others decided to take action. Over the past 2 years they have been mobilising politicians, young peers and the public at large to push the government to deliver. In response to these calls the government commissioned a study into the feasibility of the provision of free contraceptives. With IPPF support, young people’s representatives also advocate the integration of comprehensive sexuality education into the curriculum.
Belgian MPs supportive
The Belgian MPs applauded the guests’ enthusiasm and commitment to the cause, and assured their full political support. Karine Lalieux, president of the parliamentary group, stressed the importance of strengthening civil society in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights in Belgium’s bilateral cooperation. She suggested the MPs take this message to the Minister of Development Cooperation.
This exchange was made possible with the support of Countdown2015Europe.