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Review of adolescents and youth policies, strategies and laws in selected countries in West Africa

Author: Erin Papworth and Nicolle Nelson Organisation: UNFPA Year: 2017

This report examines the policies strategies and laws related to youth in five African countries: Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Ghana. The report focuses on child marriage, and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and education. Key findings are:

Child marriage

Only Burkina Faso has a national strategy on child marriage, although Ghana and Nigeria are in the process of developing one. Both Niger and Sierra Leone address CM to some extent through their policies on adolescent pregnancy.

Only Ghana has unequivocal legislation that sets the legal minimum age of marriage at 18. All other countries reviewed have set the legal age lower, or have legal loopholes which allow marriage below the age of 18. Niger has contradictory laws as different legal systems have say different things.

Adolescent SRH and age of consent laws

Every country has a policy or action plan that covers adolescent SRH, including adolescent pregnancy. However, they often do not include concrete measures to make SRH services more accessible to adolescent girls. Furthermore, there is often a lack of clarity about the age at which girls are legally allowed to access contraceptives and other SRH services. Where the age of consent is high, for example in Sierra Leone and in some states in Nigeria where it is 18, it often acts as a barrier to accessing SRH services.

Education

All countries reviewed had an education policy or strategy stating that basic education is compulsory and free. However, most countries do not cover the associated costs of schooling which act as barriers, particularly to girls. All countries also had policies to include sexual health and HIV in educational curricula, however the implementation of these policies was uneven.

TAGS: Report Niger Nigeria Sierra Leone Ghana Burkina Faso Sub-Saharan Africa Health Education Strengthening laws and policies Age of marriage National initiatives