20th July 2017
African First Ladies Attend 'Traditional Reproductive Health' Meet in Mali
By Kojo Kwafo (06/02/17)
First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma was among African First Ladies who attended the 'Positive Traditional Reproductive Health' scheme in Mali.
She recently attended the high level session for African First Ladies on reproductive health for teenagers and young people in Africa on the sidelines during the 27th France-Africa Summit in Bamako where the session was held under the theme: "Positive Traditional and Cultural Practices Serving to Promote Reproductive Health." (Pictured: First Lady Koroma, left back row, among other African First Ladies).
Reports say they focused on the question of promoting and highlighting tried and tested traditional practices that could be adopted by communities on sexual and reproductive health for positive behavioural change.
The Sierra Leone First Lady Mrs. Koroma called for the utilisation of a combination of interventions to help improve reproductive health outcomes in young people.
She joined a panel of First Ladies to share specific experiences of their countries and adopt a commitment in order to promote positive traditional practices which can further improve reproductive health.
Mrs. Koroma suggested a coordinated approach for improved access to reproductive health services for better health outcomes for teenagers and young people.
She expressed the hope that the event will bring more attention to reproductive health and child marriage challenges faced by young people and teenagers in Africa. The First Lady reminded her audience that the dimming of potential of many African girls begins at the onset of puberty.
In an attempt to further discourage negative traditional practices, Mrs Koroma warned that cultural practices that normalise child marriage and teenage pregnancy, endangers girls and leave a long lasting impact on society, whilst deprived girls are at a higher risk of child marriage, with several consequences which include; halted education, violence and abuse, teenage pregnancy and complications during and after birth.
As a key indicator in the sustainable development goals, reproductive health is a fundamental human right says the First Lady. She informed her audience that in August 2016 Sierra Leone launched the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa and expressed hope that ongoing advocacy will amend the discrepancies in the age of consent wherein the child rights act is against child marriage and the customary marriage and divorce act of 2009 encourages child marriage.
The First Ladies held talks with each other and shared experience on handling reproductive health of teens and youth such as; changing perception and valuing traditional practices and cultures which favour promoting sexual health of Teenagers and young people.
In her statement about traditional sexual education and family planning in some Malian communities, the First Lady of Mali proposed sexual and social education by the nuptial initiator and birth spacing by young spouses in the family home as measures to foster social control.
In some Malian communities, it is believed that sexual intercourse outside marriage contributes to the disorder of social order which could anger the spirits causing droughts, epidemics and infertility.
The use of contraceptive plants such as the root of ‘’Gwane’’ (a shrub) dried up and reduced to powder and consumed with hot water daily is considered as a powerful contraceptive that is effective for treating tamarind infusions.
Women practice abstinence by leaving their matrimonial home to go and spend some time at their parents’ house so as not to interfere with breastfeeding and the mother’s period of rest.
Madam Keita says that these practices aim at educating young boys and girls about sexual abstinence, delayed entry into sexual life and prevent them from sexually transmissible diseases.
The First Lady of Guinea spoke about the social and cultural aspects that affect teenage pregnancy, hygiene, abstinence, preserving virginity and initiation rites plus a massive campaign against FGM and the Promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.
The First Lady of Niger says that she introduced a school of husbands where men are trained in sexual reproductive health rights and non violence and abuse against women.
The First Lady of Ghana spoke on the varying puberty rights across tribes in Ghana. The general objective of the session is to contribute to the improvement of reproductive health of the populations in general and of women in particular whilst the First Ladies identified best traditional and cultural practices, with a view to improving reproductive health and access to services.
They determined the positive impacts, and established the possibility of their extension/dissemination at national as well as transnational levels, also listing the constraints of different practices, drew up and adopt a road map. The commitments made by the First Ladies are been validated to be included in what would become the Bamako commitment.
Mrs. Koroma also attended a glamorous Dinner Gala organised by the Malian President for Heads of States and their spouses. Also present were some Foreign Ministers including Sierra Leone’s Minister of State in the Foreign Affairs Ministry Dr. Mohamed Gibril Sesay who represented President Koroma at the Summit.
She also had a tete-a-tete with the Guinean First Lady with whom she travelled to Bamako on the prospects of women and children in both countries. First Lady Sia Koroma is well respected among her colleague First Ladies and largely considered as a role model worth emulating in Africa.