As we celebrate International Youth Day on August 12 and the inspiring leadership of young individuals, it is crucial to recognize the unique challenges faced by young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Adolescents and young people aged 10-24 years are making up 32% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa and, as this proportion is expected to grow, investing in their education, health and well-being emerges as a pressing priority.
Every week, 4000 adolescent girls and young women aged 15–24 years became infected with HIV globally in 2022. The majority, 3100, of these infections occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Challenges like early and unintended pregnancies (EUPs), child marriage, and gender-based violence (GBV) continue to hinder young people’s potential. The GBV prevalence among girls aged 15-19 is 35% in ESA and 28% in WCA. The lack of access to quality education and the high rates of school dropout remain important challenges.
Investing in education that goes beyond academics and includes life skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities is essential. Sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health rights are vital in empowering young people to make informed choices about their bodies, relationships, and overall well-being. When equipped with knowledge and skills, young people can become advocates for their health and their communities, breaking the stigma surrounding sexual health and creating a supportive environment for growth. These skills are the foundation for a brighter future, enabling young people to become leaders, innovators, and drivers of positive change.
Through collaboration with governments, communities, and organizations, we can create transformative opportunities for youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, ensuring no young person is left behind. By addressing these challenges head-on and providing access to quality education for Health and Well-Being, we can empower young minds to shape a healthier, more equitable, and prosperous future for themselves and their communities.
Young people are calling for bold action to support education for Health and Well-Being. Youth Day is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to empowering young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is necessary to bridge the knowledge gap and create a world where every young person has the chance to thrive and reach their full potential.