25 Years after Cairo: Accelerating Africa’s Promise

In this edition of Development Perspectives, we hope to refocus researchers, decisionmakers, and practitioners to the role of evidence in addressing SRHR in Africa. What does the evidence say about the successes in SRHR over the past 25 years and where are the gaps in knowledge? Finally, how can we fast-track progress in achieving good SRHR outcomes which are fundamental human rights of all girls, boys, men, and women; and also the lynchpin to achievement of many SDGs? We must not wait another twenty-five years to finish the ICPD agenda. This is a defining moment. We urge African decision-makers, researchers, and development partners to act now on the evidence to ensure that the continent achieves the ICPD goals of zero unmet need for family planning; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices. Claire Jensen’s article on child marriages provides some explanations for the persistently high fertility in Africa such as low
female education, household poverty, and culture. The article on unmet need as an unfinished agenda in family planning argues for renewed focus on the quality of care and solutions to women’s fear of side effects, in order to prevent premature discontinuation of modern contraceptives.
Another area that needs renewed focus is adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR). A review of the first phase of the Maputo Plan of Action (2007-2015) by the African Union showed that African countries had made inadequate progress in this area. Twenty-five years after Cairo, we are still having controversial debates on comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and youth, and the examples from Rwanda and Uganda in the article by Emma Heneine highlight some of the challenges that African countries face in this field. Sarah Neal’s article brings to focus a
particularly vulnerable group—very young adolescent mothers— and the need to develop interventions tailored to their needs. Similarly, Monica Jamali and her co-authors highlight some of the challenges faced by another vulnerable group, people with disability, in accessing SRHR services.