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The President of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, Ms Laura Boldrini  had a private interactive session with adolescent girls of the UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund, supported project called “Expanding Access of Slum Dwelling Out-of-School Girls to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and Family Planning (FP) Services”’. The interactive session held in Makoko community, a slum area in Lagos State was an opportunity for Ms. Boldrini to understand the barriers to education and access to reproductive health services in rural communities.

Ms Boldrini and her team obtained first-hand information on the impact of UNFPA supported interventions in the lives of adolescent girls and young people especially as it relates to their Reproductive Health. Temilade, one of the girls she interacted with was forced out of school around the age of fifteen and got pregnant two years later. “My friends made fun of me because I was pregnant and I thought of getting rid of the baby because I felt ashamed” she said.

The project implemented in slum areas of Lagos State aims to educate out of school girls like Temilade on their sexuality and reproductive health and train them to acquire vocational skills such as tailoring, bead making, make-up and catering so they are economically empowered to fulfil their potential.  The girls in the project are between the ages of 17 -19 years, many of whom are sexually active and at risk of having unwanted pregnancies, contracting STIs, HIV/AIDS  ,all factors that impede their health and wellbeing. About 300 girls have benefitted from this programme and are now agents of change and peer educators in their communities. The girls have collectively reached 20, 000 girls with non-prescriptive contraceptives and reproductive health information.

“It is important for adolescent girls to have the right information about their sexual and reproductive health, to decide if, when and how many children they wish to have” said Laura Boldrini. “This is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls”.

UNFPA empowers young people with comprehensive sexuality education and access to reproductive health services including contraceptives so they are empowered to exercise their rights and make the best decisions about their health and wellbeing,

Prior to her mission to Nigeria, Ms Laura Boldrini had met with the UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, where she was informed of the Agency’s mandate and support to member countries.