Monday, October 1, 2012


Honourable Chairman,
The leader of the Legislative and Hon. members of Akoko Edo Legislative Council,
Royal Fathers here present,
All other protocols duely observed.
My name is Priscilla Usiobaifo. I work with the BraveHeart Initiative for Youth & Women. I welcome you all to the commemoration of Nigeria’s 52nd Independence. 

I initiated the BraveHeart Initiative (BHI) at age 18 when I came to a cross road on the numerous challenges faced by young people. I needed a change and I was tired of waiting for the empty promises made by the older generation. Over the years BraveHeart Initiative have executed projects on various issues ranging from sensitization on Sexually Transmitted Infections such as Hiv/Aids, Gender based violence, Sexual abuse, maternal mortality, International, regional and national agreements, Skills trainings for economic empowerment, capacity building workshops amongst others.

In October 2009, BHI registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission as a youth led, youth focused community based NGO empowering and developing young people between the ages of 10 and 25 years through information and skills training to make informed choices, grow into self actualized adults capable of contributing towards a better society. Overall Goal of BraveHeart Initiative: To improve knowledge and understanding of sexual and reproductive rights among young people in Akoko Edo as a means of achieving gender equality

1.      To improve knowledge and understanding of sexual and reproductive rights among young people in Akoko Edo as a means of reducing teenage pregnancies by 20% in 5 years
2.      To promote community awareness on the rights of young people in order to reduce gender inequality in Akoko Edo.
3.      To facilitate the recovery of abused children, young persons and women from gender based violence.
4.      To partner with likeminded institutions and stakeholders to build the capacity of BHI.
5.      To empower young persons with skills and information to become active participants in development.
6.      To promote the practice of feminist principles among young women in Akoko Edo

Reproductive Health has been defined as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes”. Sexuality is defined as social expressions of one’s social and biological being through mannerism, mode of dressing, interactions patterns and physical intercourse.
Adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues such as unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS are important concern for youth arising from many factors including inadequate sexual health information, education and poor access to services. Many adolescents are sexually active but are often “extremely uninformed about their reproductive systems. This ignorance, more often than not, lead them to long term damage of their sexual and reproductive health or even death” (Madunagu, 1998:10)

Nigeria is one of the most youthful countries in Africa. According to recent statistics, Adolescent population makes up 22% of the general population in Nigeria. Approximately 35, 326, 000.
Nigeria’s population is estimated at 158, 423, 000. With about 42% of the population lacking improved drinking water resources, 68% of population without access to improved sanitation facilities and about 1, 700,000 of women (aged 15+) living with HIV.

We are at BraveHeart Initiative take cognizant that harmful traditional practices continue to rob young people of their rights to sexual and reproductive health, with girls and young women especially subject to such norms that expose them to sexual violence, female genital mutilation and child marriages; we also concerned that while our country has adopted several laws and policies to protect young people and provide them with services, such laws and policies are often contradictory, have loop holes and are not domesticated and implemented leading to discrimination and limited access to justice for young people.

Today, as we mark our Independence, I call on government and other related agencies to deliberately allocate funds for sexual and reproductive health programmes in line with regional and global commitments including the Abuja Declaration, the Maputo Programme of Action which calls for a minimum allocation of 15% of the national budget to health. Also to ensure evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education for in-and out of school young people through schools, communities, religious and cultural institutions.
I call on parents, communities, religious and traditional leaders to support young people to access and take up sexual and reproductive health information and services, commodities including HIV testing and counseling, contraceptives, Anti Retroviral Therapy and maternal health care. Prioritize the reform and removal of cultural practices and norms that threaten the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people including Child Rape, gender-based violence and other forms of sexual exploitation.

Thank you for your attention,
Priscilla Ikos Usiobaifo
Program Coordinator,
BraveHeart Initiative

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