AHO supports the right of all children, adolescents and young people to make their own free and informed choices in relation to their sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, violence and discrimination.
However, adolescents and young people – and girls and young women in particular – are frequently denied the right to exert control over their bodies. They may not have a say in important decisions such as if, when and whom they marry and whether to start a family.
Too often, adolescent pregnancy reflects the lack of access to information and lack of choice that girls and young women have. It also poses a major health risk to them – in fact, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are still a leading cause of death for adolescent girls.
Furthermore, girls and young women are frequently subjected to serious violations, including sexual violence and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).
AHO believes that it is crucial to challenge gender inequality and social norms which hinder fulfilment of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of children, adolescents and young people, and in particular of girls and young women. Traditional, cultural or religious grounds should never justify norms and traditions which discriminate and harm girls and women, and engaging boys and men as agents of change is key to challenging these.
We are also committed to challenging the causes of stigma, discrimination and violence towards children and young people.
Access to information about sexual health
Around the world, many adolescents become sexually active without access to timely, accurate and gender-responsive information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. This can leave them unable to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Given that we now have the largest generation of adolescents in history, this is a critical challenge.
We work to ensure that all adolescents and young people receive accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. We advocate for comprehensive sexuality education to enable girls and boys to develop the skills, knowledge, confidence and ability to make free and informed decisions about relationships and sexuality and to challenge discriminatory attitudes and harmful gender norms.
Adolescent and youth-friendly services
Too often, adolescents and young people face multiple barriers preventing them from accessing health services which meet their specific needs.
We are committed to ensuring that all adolescents and young people have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services which enable them to make choices, exert control over their bodies and exercise their right to health.
Holding governments to account
Girls continue to be one of the most vulnerable and excluded groups in the world. Their lived realities often remain invisible.
Standing up for the rights of girls and women seems more important now than ever given the powerful forces pushing back against advances towards gender equality at local, national and international levels.
We are working hard to ensure that all governments are held to account for their international commitments to girls’ and women’s rights. We will work with local advocates, partners and young people themselves to ensure that we are advocating on the issues that matter, as effectively as possible. We support young people to lead change, take action and build movements for realising the rights of girls.