Wellington – The New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) today announced its recommendations to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights in the Pacific, calling for stronger collaboration between Pacific parliamentarians and sexual and reproductive health stakeholders to push for sexual and reproductive health and rights on national agendas.
The recommendations are based on findings of an Open Hearing held by NZPPD on 11. June to address the poor reproductive health of adolescents in the Pacific. Individuals and organisations working in the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights presented to the parliamentarians on the significant barriers to adolescents realising their full sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Key parliamentarians from Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu sat alongside the NZPPD members to hear the submissions and discuss further action with the NZPPD.
Chair of the NZPPD, Dr Jackie Blue says the overarching recommendations are purposefully targeted to the highest level where the NZPPD can have an influential role:
“What we learnt at the Open Hearing was that a supportive environment is crucial to improving adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, and this means we need to encourage the top decision makers to set an example and push for supportive policies and legislation.”
“And it is certainly in their interest to do so. With 56% of the Pacific population under the age of 25, improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights is critical to the wider development agenda of the region” says Dr. Blue.
Adolescents in the Pacific suffer a disproportionate burden of poor sexual and reproductive health, reflected in the high rates of pregnancies, sexually transmissible infections and cases of gender-based violence among the 10-24 year age group.
The key messages from the Open Hearing along with the NZPPD’s recommendations and suggested further actions will be compiled in a report to be launched in November 2012.
The NZPPD’s recommendations and further actions
A) That a country-specific structure be established in each country which links MPs and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) organisations so that supportive political leaders can advance an SRHR agenda with a particular focus on adolescents and youth;
B) That these structures be actively linked into international and regional networks for technical support purposes;
C) That each country develop their own programme for advancing the SRHR agenda, with each structure engaging with community leaders as appropriate (e.g. tribal, church, civil society) and with particular focus on adolescents and youth.
1. Engage adolescents in decision making processes that directly affect them. In particular, ensure their meaningful involvement in decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health.
2. Recognise young Pacific women as key stakeholders to lead and influence change in the area of adolescent SRHR.
Access to services and commodities
3. Increase efforts to ensure all Pacific Island adolescents have access to a complete range of high quality adolescent-friendly clinical SRHR services, which are non-discriminatory, free from stigma, confidential, affordable and available at times and dates suitable for adolescents.
4. Ensure high quality information, commodities, supplies and services are available to adolescents in rural and small communities.
5. Increase efforts to ensure all Pacific Island adolescents have access to comprehensive SRHR information and education, through formal and informal settings.
6. Promote safe and supportive school environments for all adolescents, particularly young women, LGBQTI, and other vulnerable groups.
7. Ensure legislation, policies and institutions protect the rights of women and girls, prevent and eliminate all forms of discrimination and gender based violence, and enable their full participation in political and other leadership through special measures.
8. Decriminalise homosexuality and support legislation and policy to reduce stigma and discrimination faced by young people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
9. Reform restrictive abortion legislation to reduce unsafe abortion.
10. Ensure adolescents are explicitly addressed in reproductive health and population and development policy documents.
11. Call for Pacific Island leaders to reaffirm the importance of both the recognition and realisation of SRHR in the Pacific Forum Leaders Communiqués.
12. Establish a parliamentarians’ cross party group on population and development in each of the five Pacific countries represented at the Open Hearing.
13. Increased funding must be made available to enable:
a. The delivery of culturally appropriate services to poor urban and rural communities.
b. The building of essential infrastructure, which includes communications and transport, particularly to rural and outer island communities.
c. Consistent availability of essential commodities, supplies and pharmaceuticals.
d. Recruitment of health workers, and the training of new and existing health workers in best practice SRHR service delivery, including adolescent friendly clinical skills and health education skills.
e. The dissemination of contraceptive and sexual health advice through formal and informal education services, health care agencies, and community outreach.
f. Support for programmes that work to achieve gender equality
g. Engagement of community and church leaders in the dissemination of information and services.
Research and data
14. Improve the collection, analysis and use of adolescent sexual and reproductive health data and strategic information.
The NZPPD is cross – party, with currently 47 members representing just under 40 percent of all New Zealand MPs. The group has provided a forum for New Zealand parliamentarians to engage and act on international population and development issues for fourteen years. The NZPPD has a particular focus on the Pacific region, where the population and development challenges remain great. Family Planning International houses the NZPPD Secretariat.